Links for 4-11-2018

  • Senator Rand Paul endorsing a Convention of States:

  • Confirming rumors that have been circulating for months, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) won’t run for re-election. Denis Ross (R-FL) isn’t running for re-election, either.

  • The Congressional Budget Office broke the law when it deemed the omnibus spending bill’s ObamaCare insurer bailout a net savings.

  • Bellingcat analyzed open source data on the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria, and it looks like Bashar al-Assad’s regime dropped a chlorine tank on an apartment building from a helicopter, and that accounted for the majority of the deaths.

  • John Daniel Davidson toured San Francisco’s homeless camps:

    In other words, San Francisco is rich and beautiful—and it doesn’t care what Republicans think. Like many large U.S. cities, Democrats here preside over a political monoculture. Less than 10 percent of San Franciscans voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and the city hasn’t had a GOP mayor since 1964. The Board of Supervisors (the city council) is technically nonpartisan, but every seat on the board is occupied by a registered Democrat. The top four candidates in the current mayoral race—an African-American woman, an Asian-American woman, an Hispanic woman, and an openly gay man—will all be “firsts,” no matter who wins the special election in June. Also certain: the winner will be a Democrat.

    The absence of any organized political opposition, combined with its vast wealth, makes San Francisco a kind of proof-of-concept for progressive governance. If there’s anywhere progressives should be able to enact their schemes for a perfectly-ordered society, it’s here. A booming tech industry has made vast new resources available to the city: the 2017–18 municipal budget exceeds $10 billion, nearly a third larger than the budget was a decade ago. City government now spends roughly $11,500 per person each year, more than any other city in the country (including New York) and almost double per capita state spending.

    That’s why the housing and homelessness problems besetting the city open it up to more than mere mockery from conservatives but substantive criticism of progressive governance writ large. It’s not just homeless encampments that bedevil San Francisco, but also the flight of the middle class and the emergence of a kind of citywide caste system: the wealthy, the service class, and the destitute. In some ways, San Francisco is becoming something progressives are supposed to hate: a private club for the super-rich.

  • China is developing a nuclear-capable, air-launched ballistic missile and a modified bomber to carry it.

  • An Algerian Il–76 military transport plane crashed about 20 miles southwest of Algiers, killing 257 people.

  • Saudi Arabia claims it shot down another three ballistic missiles fired by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Links for 3-25-2018

Links for 3-21-2018

Links for 3-14-2018

  • A U.S. Navy F/A–18 Super Hornet crashed off Key West. The two crew members ejected, but there’s no word on their condition.

  • Donald Trump hired Larry Kudlow as his new chief economic advisor. Kudlow doesn’t like tariffs, just like the guy he’s replacing, Gary Cohn.

  • Susan Glasser writes that the foreign capital Rex Tillerson didn’t understand was Donald Trump’s Washington:

    Defying the laws of political gravity at every turn, Tillerson feuded with fellow Cabinet members, clashed with White House staff, and alienated many of the thousands of career officials at the State Department who initially welcomed him as a voice of establishment calm in an unsettling new administration only to watch as he slashed their budgets and devalued their work. He was barely on speaking terms with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, engaged in a bitter turf war with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, was disdained by key members of Congress who had once cheered for him, and was almost comically out of the loop on key policy decisions. When senior officials from key allies came to town, they often didn’t even bother to schedule meetings at Tillerson’s marginalized State Department anymore, and several of his own ambassadors were outright insubordinate by the end, realizing that power lay in the White House, not in the secretary’s wood-paneled office on the State Department’s seventh floor.

  • The FBI office that handles employee discipline recommended that Jeff Sessions fire Andrew McCabe before his official retirement kicks in on Sunday. McCabe would lose at least some of his retirement benefits if he’s fired.

  • The U.S. is still conducting air strikes in Yemen — it’s just not publicizing them.

  • Donald Trump is preparing to meet North Korean President Kim Jong Un while the U.S. has limited human and signals intelligence information from North Korea, which puts Trump at a disadvantage.

  • The U.S. is investigating reports that North Korea is operating a large underground military base in Syria:

    “We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”

    Later:

    The underground North Korean military base could be hiding more than just chemical weapons, according to regional reports indicating that the sheer size of the base, which is mostly situated within a mountain, raises concerns of nuclear work.

  • The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law, a reversal of a district court decision. The one provision the appeals court barred relates to civil penalties against local officials who “endorse a policy under which the entity or department prohibits or materially limits the enforcement of immigration laws” — because that might infringe the officials’ First Amendment rights.

  • There’s a new terrorist group called “White Flag” operating in northwestern and central Iraq, “a union of Kurdish terrorists and former ISIS fighters.”

    The military official said intelligence on the group is sketchy but preliminary indications are it poses a threat to the areas of Iraq where it has operated. White Flag, however, does not currently have capabilities for conducting terror attacks outside the country.

    Estimates of numbers for White Flag members vary widely from as few as 100 terrorists to as many as 1,000.

  • British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats/spies in retaliation for Russia’s alleged poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

Links for 2-27-2018

Links for 2-24-2018

  • Axios published a concise list of law enforcement’s failures in the Parkland, Florida shooting.

  • Andrew McCarthy details the web that connects Paul Manafort and Richard Gates to friends of Vladimir Putin, and argues that Robert Mueller is preparing a CYA operation to defend the Department of Justice:

    Second, and more likely, Mueller will want to defend the investigative decisions made by the FBI and the Justice Department — institutions he served at the highest levels for many years.

    Mueller cannot refute every claimed irregularity. There is no defending, for example, the intelligence leaks to the media; the blatantly disparate treatment between the kid-gloves Clinton-emails investigation and the zealous effort to derail Trump; or the presentation to the FISA court of the traitorous dossier allegations, against Trump and his campaign, that had not been corroborated by the FBI. Yet Mueller could be endeavoring to make a record that the FBI and Justice Department acted reasonably, albeit over-anxiously, when they credited the reporting of Steele — a source they understandably trusted from prior experience, who was reporting suspicions that were plausible in light of the Manafort and Gates history. Mueller could be contemplating a report that portrays as justifiable the Obama administration’s use of the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus of government to investigate the presidential campaign of the opposition party.

    In short, the special counsel may be preparing to argue that the Obama officials were acting on rational suspicions, not partisan politics. He may be laying the groundwork to argue that, while political, law-enforcement, and intelligence officials made mistakes, the main culprit was Trump’s judgment in recruiting Manafort and Gates — particularly under circumstances in which the candidate was already publicly flattering Putin in an unseemly way.

  • An al Qaeda affiliate in West Africa, Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, claimed responsibility for the IED that killed two French soldiers in Mali.

  • ISIS used two suicide car bombs to attack a counter-terrorism base in Aden, Yemen, killing 14 people and wounding 40.

  • The Taliban overran an Afghan military base in Farah province, killing at least 20 soldiers.

Links for 1-30-2018