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  • The counter-leaks have already started in response to the release of Devin Nunes’ memo; many of the controversies regarding the memo would go away if the Department of Justice released the text of its applications for FISA court warrants targeting Carter Page and other people associated with the Trump campaign and transition team. Many commentators are arguing there isn’t a scandal here, but Victor Davis Hanson makes a good argument why there should be one:

    If all this is not a scandal — then the following protocols are now considered permissible in American electoral practice and constitutional jurisprudence: An incumbent administration can freely use the FBI and the DOJ to favor one side in a presidential election, by buying its opposition research against the other candidate, using its own prestige to authenticate such a third-party oppositional dossier, and then using it to obtain court-ordered wiretaps on American citizens employed by a candidate’s campaign — and do so by deliberately misleading the court about the origins and authors of the dossier that was used to obtain the warrants.

    Mark Steyn takes issue with the Department of Justice renewing the warrant targeting Carter Page even as the the perceived quality of the intelligence that justified the warrant in the first place kept decreasing as they investigated further:

    A surveillance warrant against a US person also has to be renewed every 90 days – which this one was, thrice: That would presumably be just before the inauguration in January, and again in April and July. By the time of the first renewal, signatories Yates and Comey were aware that Steele had been fired as an FBI informant for blabbing to the press about being an FBI informant. In addition, an internal FBI investigation had found his dossier “minimally corroborated”. Yet evidently the diminished value of both the dossier and its author were not disclosed to the judge – in January or subsequent renewals. Indeed, one can be fairly confident that Deputy AG Rosenstein and the FBI would have been happy to apply for a fourth renewal, were it not for the fact that the general crappiness of Steele’s dossier was by then all over the papers and even a judge kept in the dark by the feds for a year might have begun to notice it.

    In the middle of all this is an American citizen who was put under 24/7 surveillance by the panopticon state because it enabled the ruling party to eavesdrop on its political opponent. As much as Steele’s dossier, Carter Page was a mere pretext: The dossier was the pretext to get to Page, and Page was the pretext to get to Trump.

  • For more than two years, Israeli drones, helicopters, and airplanes have conducted airstrikes against militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula with the Egyptian government’s blessing.

    The Israeli drones are unmarked, and the Israeli jets and helicopters cover up their markings. Some fly circuitous routes to create the impression that they are based in the Egyptian mainland, according to American officials briefed on their operations.

    In Israel, military censors restrict public reports of the airstrikes. It is unclear if any Israeli troops or special forces have set foot inside Egyptian borders, which would increase the risk of exposure.

    Mr. Sisi has taken even more care, American officials say, to hide the origin of the strikes from all but a limited circle of military and intelligence officers. The Egyptian government has declared the North Sinai a closed military zone, barring journalists from gathering information there.

  • Syrian rebels in Idlib province shot down a Russian fighter plane and killed the pilot after he ejected.

  • A suicide bomber killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured another 13.

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.