Links for 1-2-2018

  • An American soldier was killed and four were wounded during fighting in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan. The U.S. is withholding $255 million in aid to Pakistan because it harbors terrorists.

  • Mark Steyn’s first post of the new year includes a twelve days of Christmas-style countdown: an eight o’clock curfew, seven sexual assailants, six stabbers arrested, five homes raided, four women gang-raped, three pubs attacked, two police officers lynched, and a canceled New Year in Sydney. His numbering scheme doesn’t handle the 945 cars that were torched in France on New Year’s Eve.

  • Two members of Germany’s Alternative for Germany party are being investigated for violating a new law that makes it a crime to “incite people to commit violence against a certain section of society.” Their alleged offenses were committed via Twitter, which deleted the tweets because the company can be fined 50 million euros for failing to delete “hateful” content.

  • Senator Al Franken (D-MN) officially resigned.

  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) won’t run for re-election. He’s only been in the Senate for 40 years, and he’s 83 years old. Say hello to Senator Mitt Romney.

  • Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA) won’t run for re-election.

  • Huma Abedin forwarded emails containing passwords to government systems to her personal Yahoo account before all of Yahoo’s accounts were breached. At least one of those breaches was perpetrated by a Russian intelligence agent.

  • Victor Davis Hanson writes that we’re in the midst of an unusual experiment in American government, a rapid switch from far-left to far-right governing at the federal level. He characterizes the Obama administration this way:

    Identity politics, progressive policing of ideas on campus, an end to campus free expression that only empowered hate speech, the politicization and expansion of the deep state, along with open borders and new laxities governing citizenship and voting would usher in new, kinder and gentler race, ethnicity, and gender agendas. A single EPA director, one high IRS commissioner, or a federal-appeals-court justice would now exercise far more political power than any congressional committee. The “law” — in the sense of customary non-surveillance of American citizens, disinterested attorneys general, or a nonpartisan bureaucracy — was redefined as whatever would best serve social justice and equality.

    On the economic side, more regulations, larger government, more entitlements, higher taxes, zero interest rates, and doubling the national debt were designed to redistribute income and “spread the wealth.” The idea that the stock market could get much higher, that GDP could ever hit 3 percent or above, or that industry and manufacturing would return to the U.S. was caricatured as the ossified pipe dreams of discredited supply-siders.

  • The initial narrative on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia isn’t going anywhere, so The New York Times is trying again, this time focusing on George Papadopoulos instead of Carter Page.

    In the Times’ new version of events, it was not the dossier that “so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election.” That, according to the Times, is a false claim that “Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged.” Somehow, the paper omits the inconvenient details that it was the Times that led the charge in claiming that it was Page’s trip to Moscow that provoked the investigation, and that it was the dossier that so alarmed the FBI about that trip.

    In what we might think of as the latest “Russian Reset,” the Times now says the investigation was instigated by “firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies” — Australia. Turns out Papadopoulos was out drinking in London with Alexander Downer, “Australia’s top diplomat in Britain.” Tongue loosened, the “young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign” made a “startling revelation” to Downer: He had learned that “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

    Later:

    To say this story has holes in it does not do justice to the craters on display. To begin with, the Times admits that “exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said” to Downer “is unclear.” What we are dealing with here is sheer supposition. And, it appears, flawed supposition.

  • The death toll in Iran’s protests is up to 20, and the government is blaming the country’s unnamed “enemies.” Ben Shapiro writes that Donald Trump has reversed the Obama doctrine on Iran:

    Contrast Trump’s behavior with that of the Obama administration, which deliberately ignored anti-regime protests in 2009, choosing instead to cozy favor with the regime and maximize Tehran’s regional power. The administration even went so far as to give Tehran a legal pathway to a nuclear weapon. Obama stated that while he was “troubled” by violence against the protesters, it was “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” and he hoped “to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”

    The administration would go on to allegedly leak Israeli plans to kill the commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, to the Iranians, lie to the American public about contact with the “moderate” Iranian regime regarding a nuclear deal, and then ship pallets of cash to the greatest state sponsor of terror on the planet.

    This, then, is the irony of Trump’s foreign policy in contrast with Obama’s: Obama jabbered endlessly about American leadership while simultaneously “leading from behind.” Trump actually pursues American leadership while simultaneously claiming the isolationist mantle of “America first.”

  • Iran re-opened two border crossings with Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • The Washington Free Beacon obtained a document from China’s Communist Party that indicates China offered North Korea increased aid and military support if the country stopped testing nuclear weapons. China’s public stance is that it wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but the document says North Korea can keep its existing nuclear weapons. The Beacon doesn’t say how it obtained the document, but there’s a good chance dissident Guo Wengui was involved.

  • An academic study suggests that Republicans support photo voter ID laws to combat voter fraud, but Democrats only support them when it’s likely that Republicans would be hurt by such laws.

Links for 9-12-2017

Links for 7-18-2017

  • Alexandra DeSanctis writes that there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Senate’s failure to repeal ObamaCare:

    And if those negotiations failed, as they did time and again over the past month, a competent, savvy Republican president might have been able to make up the difference. Instead, Donald Trump evidently lacked the political capital and intellectual substance to forge any kind of compromise on health care. He apparently went into office with next to no idea of what he wanted in terms of policy, and his famed “deal-making” ability either disappeared or was rendered null by his unpopularity, dearth of political experience, and general unwillingness to grasp how Washington works.

    Ben Domenech places the blame squarely on Mitch McConnell:

    At the end of the day, it wasn’t small government ideology that killed this bill. Mitch McConnell’s crafted backroom solution couldn’t even get the support of Jerry Moran. The joint announcement yesterday that neither he nor Mike Lee could support this bill was a kindness, saving face after it became clear this was headed toward defeat – and not because of Ted Cruz, who was always going to get to yes, but because of a collection of moderates who spent years lying about their opposition to Obamacare for political reasons. Murkowski, Hoeven, Capito, Heller, Portman, and Collins wanted to have it both ways: they wanted to defend the Medicaid expansions (that bolsters the budgets in many of their states) while making noises about fixing the private insurance markets that have devastated their middle class. This is a failure of imagination and policy, and a reminder that moderation does not equate to intelligence.

  • Victor Davis Hanson writes on the fifth American war:

    So who is winning this fifth American conflict, and why?

    Progressivism.

    It has an insidious appeal to human nature, offering contexts and arguments for dependency — which is defined as the consequence of some sort of prior unethical exploitation (rather than chance, bad luck, or personal pathology, perhaps in addition to exploitation) and therefore deserving of proper recompense. Progressivism promises a transcendence over nature’s limitations through superior education, proper training, and correct reasoning, as if poverty, illness, and inequality were not innate to human nature but results of selfishness and ignorance and so rather easily remedied. It confuses technological progress with a credo that human nature itself evolves in predictably progressive ways, thereby supposedly making obsolete institutions and protocols (from the Constitution itself to ancient ideas such as deterrence) that were once time-honored.

  • Elizabeth Corey attended a conference on intersectionality at the University of Notre Dame, and discovered intersectionality is a religion:

    Intersectionality is a wholly academic invention that plays a large role in this movement. Indeed, it stands in the vanguard of the progressive academy, allied with critical race studies, queer studies, women’s studies, and ethnic studies. Intersectional scholars proudly proclaim their goal: to smash the neoliberal, corporate, heteropatriarchal academy and then to reinvent it in a way that rejects traditional notions about what universities are meant to do. These scholars also want to redefine the family and to abolish the “binary” of man and woman.

    Later:

    At the end there was a question and answer period. I asked whether and how [professor Patricia Hill] Collins would suggest that intersectionality engage with its adversaries, the hated conservatives. Given the polarization of America right now, did she see some way for the two camps to communicate or find common ground? The vehemence of her answer was startling. “No,” she said. “You cannot bring these two worlds together. You must be oppositional. You must fight. For me, it’s a line in the sand.” This was at once jarring and clarifying.

  • Eliot Bakker argues that the U.S. needs to leave its air base in Qatar until the country stops supporting terrorism.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised new civil asset forfeiture initiatives — seizing the assets of people accused of, but not convicted of, committing a crime.

    Although the details have yet to be released, Sessions’ directive appears likely to loosen the restrictions on “adoptions” of forfeiture cases by the federal government—an alarming prospect for opponents of asset forfeiture.

    “Reversing the ban on adoptive seizures would revive one of the most notorious forms of forfeiture abuse,” Sheth said. “So-called ‘adoptive’ seizures allow state and local law enforcement to circumvent state-law limitations on civil forfeiture by seizing property and then transferring it to federal prosecutors for forfeiture under federal law. Bringing back adoptive seizures would create a road map to circumvent state-level forfeiture reforms.”

  • Claremont McKenna College punished seven students for shutting down a speech by Heather Mac Donald. Three students received one year suspensions, two received one semester suspensions, and two were put on “conduct probation.”

  • Iraqi security forces are shooting suspected ISIS fighters or throwing them from buildings in part because they don’t trust the Iraqi government to imprison them.

    The belief by Iraqi soldiers and militiamen that their own government is too corrupt to keep captured Isis fighters in detention is one reason why the bodies of Isis suspects, shot in the head or body and with their hands tied behind their backs, are found floating in the Tigris river downstream from Mosul. Revenge and hatred provoked by Isis atrocities are motives for extrajudicial killings by death squads, but so is distrust of an Iraqi judicial system, which is notoriously corrupt and dysfunctional.

  • The Trump administration is planning new sanctions against Venezuelan government officials accused of human rights violations.

  • The Trump administration again certified that Iran is complying with Barack Obama’s nuclear deal, although it imposed sanctions on a group of Iranians who are “linked to the illicit procurement of equipment or technology for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or military.”

  • Separatists in eastern Ukraine announced a new state that encompasses not just the territory they control, but all of Ukraine. The new state is called “Malorossiya.”

  • Given the rate of new construction in Pyongyang, you’d think economic sanctions against North Korea aren’t working.

Links for 6-15-2017

Links for 2-9-2017

Links for 1-3-2017

  • Members of the House of Representatives and newly elected members of the Senate were sworn in today. Yesterday the House adopted rules that crippled the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which was created in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal in 2005. After public criticism and a pair of Donald Trump tweets, those rule changes were postponed — the House approved new rules that lacked the OCE changes. The OCE has been abused for partisan purposes and should be reformed, but the timing of this maneuver was stupid.

  • Someone in the Department of Homeland Security leaked a memo to Reuters describing a meeting with Donald Trump’s transition team:

    In a wide-ranging request for documents and analysis, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team asked the Department of Homeland Security last month to assess all assets available for border wall and barrier construction.

    The team also asked about the department’s capacity for expanding immigrant detention and about an aerial surveillance program that was scaled back by the Obama administration but remains popular with immigration hardliners. And it asked whether federal workers have altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties.

    Later:

    The transition team also asked for copies of every executive order and directive sent to immigration agents since Obama took office in 2009, according to the memo summarizing the meeting.

  • A new Obama administration regulation adds the names of Social Security recipients who are “financially incompetent” (e.g. they can’t pay their own bills) to the list of people who are prohibited from buying guns. John Lott argues this will make it more difficult for elderly people to defend themselves.

  • The Washington Free Beacon published an excerpt from Bill Gertz’s new book, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age.

  • Ford announced they’re scrapping plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico, and will instead spend $700 million to expand the existing Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan. Ford claims the change of plans is due to pro-growth policies they expect the Republican-controlled Congress and President Trump to enact. Trump has publicly criticized Ford’s plan to build the plant in Mexico.

  • Victor Davis Hanson writes on the current state of California:

    What makes the law-abiding leave California is not just the sanctimoniousness, the high taxes, or the criminality. It is always the insult added to injury. We suffer not only from the highest basket of income, sales, and gas taxes in the nation, but also from nearly the worst schools and infrastructure. We have the costliest entitlements and the most entitled. We have the largest number of billionaires and the largest number of impoverished, both in real numbers and as a percentage of the state population.

    California crime likewise reflects the California paradox of two states: a coastal elite and everyone else. California is the most contentious, overregulated, and postmodern state in the Union, and also the most feral and 19th-century.

  • The Turkish government wants to imprison Fethullah Gulen’s dentists for 15 years. Erdogan’s government keeps achieving new heights of absurdity.

Links for 12-27-2016

  • Victor Davis Hanson explains how President Obama’s foreign policy differs from ancient foreign policy that actually works, even today:

    In contrast, when a national leader repeatedly lectures the world on peace, takes options off the table, uses the megaphone to blast his own country’s flaws and distance himself from its supposedly checkered past, heralds soft power, and in psychodramatic fashion issues rhetorical red lines, deadlines, and step-over lines, then he erodes deterrence (in becoming predictably passive). And the while, his empty sanctimoniousness grates rivals and invites gratuitous adventurism. The gunslingers of the world vie to gain a reputation by showing other outlaws how enervated the once-robust sheriff has become, despite his trash-talking — and sometimes they stage a shoot-out on Main Street for no apparent reason other than that they can.

  • A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived lawsuits filed by Judicial Watch and Cause of Action over how the State Department and the National Archives handled Hillary Clinton’s emails.

  • An engineer who worked for Hamas and Hezbollah, Mohammed al-Zawari, was gunned down in Tunisia. Al-Zawari was an expert on drones, and was reportedly working on underwater drones that could be used to attack Israel’s offshore natural gas platforms.

  • Adriel Kasonta writes that it’s time for the EU to get tough on Turkey:

    According to Hans-Christian Ströbel, a Green-party member of the German Bundestag, Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT has around 6,000 informants in Germany alone. These informants reportedly pass the names of dissidents to the MIT, which adds them to the government’s blacklist of people it wishes to arrest in the future. Intelligence expert and author Erich Schmidt-Eenboom explained in an interview with The Local that each informant could be responsible for monitoring 500 people with Turkish roots in Germany, which is a home to around 3 million Turks. This would also mean that these spies are each monitoring more people than the Stasi did in West Germany during the Cold War.

    The main difference between the MIT and the Stasi, according to Schmidt-Eenboom, is that the later engaged primarily in gathering military, political, and economic intelligence in West Germany, rather than targeting former citizens. “This is no longer about intelligence reconnaissance, but rather this is increasingly being used for intelligence repression,” he warned.

  • Gunmen broke into the home of a prominent Iraqi female freelance journalist, Afrah Shawqi al-Qaisi, and kidnapped her.

  • An Argentine judge indicted former President Cristina Fernandez, accusing her of participating in a corruption scheme that stole money from public road projects.