November 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Confusion reigns over US plan to 'secure the oil' in Syria as commanders await orders (Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette, 11/02/19, CNN)

Nearly three weeks after President Donald Trump ordered troops out of northern Syria, publicly declaring he was taking "control" of the oil and sending troops and armored carriers to protect it from ISIS, US commanders lack clarity on the most basic aspects of their mission, including how and when troops can fire their weapons and what, exactly, that mission is.

The lack of precise orders means troops are on the ground while critical details are still being worked out -- exactly where they will go, when and how they will stay on small bases in the area, and when they go on patrol.

Perhaps most crucially, there is no clarity about exactly who they are operating against in the oilfields.

That's essential information for troops on the ground and in the air to understand circumstances in which they are permitted to fire their weapons. It's also crucial for military planners to understand how many US combat ground forces and aircraft are needed, the official said.

The precision that's lacking is vital for military commanders, who need specific, legal orders that are not subject to interpretation in moments of crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


Making Moral Mistakes Mandatory (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, November 3, 2019, National Review)

The leading anti-immigration voice in our country belongs to my friend Mark Krikorian of the Mayflower Krikorians. Two of the most prominent voices associated with our dotty new blood-and-soil nationalism are linked to the surnames Buchanan and Ahmari. My colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty calls himself a nationalist, too -- a nationalist in the cause of at least two nations, by my count. That's two Irishmen, an Iranian, and an Armenian, three of them Catholics and all four of them gentlemen who, if earlier generations of so-called nationalists had had their way, would be admiring these United States from afar.

Funny old world.

On Friday, I appeared opposite Sohrab Ahmari on a panel hosted by the William F. Buckley Program at Yale. He argued that the main duty of the state is not to protect liberty but to achieve the good, biblically defined. That's what he said when he showed up, anyway -- he was a little bit late owing to the fact that the state he would entrust to do God's work here on Earth cannot quite manage to make the trains run on time, a fact that you might think would be of some interest to a bantamweight Mussolini.

Mr. Ahmari, who is the op-ed editor of the New York Post (where I write about twice a month), is a Catholic convert, as am I. (I suppose I identify as "Puritan curious" these days; it must be that book on the Presidents Adams.) I have never met a Catholic convert who is not a fan of A Man for All Seasons, and Mr. Ahmari reminds me a little bit of the young idealist of whom Thomas More says: "We must just pray that when your head is finished turning, your face is to the front again." National Review is a magazine that in its early days boasted a collection of freshly reformed Trotskyites, doctrinaire libertarians, and militant Catholic anti-liberals, but to my knowledge none of them was all three at the same time, whereas Mr. Ahmari can run through that cycle in a three-day weekend. I will be happy for him when his jackboot phase has ended, but who knows where he will land?

You can bet it will not be in a place close to my sometime colleague David French. If you have followed recent intramural conservative factional politics, then you will know that Mr. Ahmari has a bizarre and unseemly obsession with David French, who is a leading conservative critic of the Trump administration and its sycophants. Trump's admirers like to say, "He fights!" Trump of course is a medical marvel, having had the only case in recorded medical history of bone spurs that healed without any medical intervention whatsoever, a miracle that was witnessed right around the time the Vietnam draft was coming to a close. French served in Iraq without any compulsion and has dedicated much of his career to literally making a federal case of it when Americans' religious liberties are violated by various peckerwood city councilmen and mealy-mouthed deans. But he is almost unfailingly polite, and thus Mr. Ahmari et al. heap scorn upon what they call "David Frenchism." But when Mr. Ahmari recently was fool enough to get on the other side of David French in an actual debate, the stuttering and incoherent mess to which he was promptly reduced was evidence enough (superfluous, in fact) that David Frenchism is made of sterner stuff than our newly minted young nationalists had thought.

Jonah Goldberg has noted a haunting emptiness when he hosts Nationalists like Yoram Hazony on his podcast and confessed mystification at why that is.  And when Andy Smarick was on Matt Lewis and the News he repeatedly stated that Trumpism would fade after Donald leaves because it isn't a coherent philosophy.  The absence in both cases, like the incoherence of Mr. Ahmari and the First Things claque is a function of advocating what is essentially the politics of bigotry in an America where it has long gone out of whatever fashion it once had.  

Donald has, of course, not managed to do anything legislatively, but he has been able to attempt a few things using Executive power and we can easily see what they have in common.  He opposes trade with places like China and Mexico.  He opposes Muslim, African and Latino--in particular--immigration. And he opposes honoring American military and treaty commitments irrespective of the harm to South Korea, the Kurds, the Palestinians, Iran, etc.  On the other hand, he endorses things like the totalitarian regime in North Korea, the oppressive Wahhabi Sa'uds, Xi trampling Hong Kong, and so forth.  Wherever possible he has tried to negatively affect non-White and non-Christian peoples.  His entirely coherent philosophy is nothing more, nor less, than White Nationalism.  Those defenders of his share the ideology.  But they are reduced to stuttering and incoherent messes because they can't actually go on stage or on air or into print and express their hatreds forthrightly.  Mr. Ahmari's obsession is with the entire tradition of Conservatism, which is so annoyingly writ large for him in the decency of a David French.   

It tells us all we really need to know that even with Nationalism at its high tide, the advocates are too ashamed to discuss it openly.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Trump Slams California Governor, Threatens to Cut Off Wildfire Aid to the State (DANIEL POLITI, NOV 03, 2019, Slate)

President Donald Trump once again threatened to cut off federal aid to California as the state tries to battle numerous wildfires, directly criticizing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for his "terrible job of forest management." In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Trump went on to suggest the federal government won't be giving California any more aid to help fight the wildfires. "Every year, as the fire's rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more," the president wrote.

Why not implement a public works/infrastructure program to clear the lines immediately and bury them gradually?

Posted by orrinj at 9:08 AM


Trump Is Beijing's Best Asset (PAUL HAENLE, SAM BRESNICK ,  Oct. 15th, 2019, Foreign Policy)

[F]or China, Trump's weaknesses are more important than his bluster. During numerous off the record discussions with Chinese government officials and scholars, we are finding that an increasing number are hoping for Trump's reelection next year. At a time when China's political influence and military capabilities are growing, they argue that in spite of his anti-China bluster, Trump has afforded Beijing the space to expand its influence across Asia and, more importantly, comprehensively weakened Washington's global leadership. From a zero-sum standpoint, many Chinese have concluded that Trump's policies are strategically very good for China in the long run.

These thinkers believe that Trump, by polarizing U.S. domestic politics, damaging Washington's international credibility and traditional global stewardship, and undermining long-standing alliance arrangements, has presented Beijing with its "greatest strategic opportunity since the end of the Cold War," as Yan Xuetong, one of China's foremost strategic thinkers, put it.

These Chinese thinkers see Trump as a dog with a big bark but little bite. He tested Beijing's patience by accepting a phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, in what the Chinese viewed as a violation of the "One China" policy, shortly after his election in 2016. Trump publicly questioned whether he would stick with the policy before saying he would, but he also said he would have to check with Chinese President Xi Jinping before taking another call with Tsai. Though the administration has greenlighted some arms sales to Taiwan, whether Trump would back Taipei were Beijing to attack remains doubtful, especially given his mercenary attitude toward U.S. military power.

Beijing has already gained significantly from Trump's term in office. Despite prosecuting trade spats with India and the European Union, as well as China, the administration has largely given up on using World Trade Organization courts to litigate trade complaints and has blocked appointments to the organization's Appellate Body. These actions not only get in the way of the world's most important trade dispute settlement system but also embolden other countries to ignore international law.

When not damaging global governance institutions and mechanisms that helped establish the United States as the world's preeminent superpower, Trump's antipathy toward trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has afforded China an opening.

While Trump is shredding the cooperative trade agreements that have been central to U.S. international economic policy, Beijing is in the late stages of negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a deal that would tie China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members into the world's largest trade bloc. If that agreement is ratified, the United States will be left out of the two largest global free trade deals, the other being the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated among 11 countries involved in the original Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. This would add insult to injury, as China already trades more with every major Asian economy than the United States does.

...let's call the whole presidency off...

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Kashmir: Independence activists draw inspiration from German reunification (Deutsche-welle, 11/03/19)

"We believe that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany are an inspiration not only to us but to all freedom movements in the world. Like the pre-reunification Germany, Jammu and Kashmir has also been split into two territories, and a wall (LoC) was erected to divide the same people," Toqeer Gilani, the president of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, told DW. He added that "if Germany can be reunited, so can Kashmir."

"The post-World War II Germany was also forcefully divided by global powers. It was propagated that the division was necessary due to the 'ideological differences' between East and West Germany. We also experienced this in Kashmir," Gilani said.

Some experts say that although the German and Kashmiri dynamics are not totally similar, the "independent Kashmir" movement can still take inspiration from the German reunification success.

"As we approach the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we should rejoice that people can overcome adversity and divisions. The people of Kashmir will take inspiration from what happened in Germany 30 years ago. A group of people has been kept apart by force," Shaffaq Mohammed, a British-Kashmiri MEP (Member of European Parliament), told DW.

Ali Raza Syed, the chairman of the Kashmir Council, a Brussels-based non-governmental organization, says that just as in pre-reunification Germany, families are divided in India- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmirs. "They have the same culture, the same language. I think the German reunification inspirations can be applied to Kashmir," Syed told DW.

"You can threaten people, you can torture them, but you cannot govern a country out of fear," Mohammed said, referring both to the India-imposed lockdown in Kashmir and the oppression in the former German Democratic Republic, or GDR.

"If Kashmiris want to be independent of both India and Pakistan, it is their right," the Liberal Democrat MEP added.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Central and eastern Europeans are mostly happy with progress since 1989 (The Economist, Oct 31st 2019)

No empire in history has disintegrated as quickly or as bloodlessly as the Soviet one, in the remarkable year that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. A period of carnage in Romania the following month was the only grisly counter-example. Yugoslavia, never a part of that empire, followed a tragically different path; but for the rest of central and eastern Europe, though clearly imperfect, the past 30 years have been a time of marvels.

Standards of living for most of the region's peoples have vastly improved, and most of them know it. New polling by the Pew Research Centre shows that 81% of Poles, 78% of Czechs and 55% of Hungarians agree that this is the case. Only Bulgarians on balance take a gloomy view, with just 32% of them thinking that their standard of living has improved since 1989. Development has been patchy, but for every depopulating and ageing rustbelt in eastern Europe there is a booming industrial region, a tech cluster or a services centre desperate for more workers.

...what good is the End of History?

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Mueller Documents: Manafort Pushed Ukraine Hack Theory, RNC Tied to Wikileaks (The Associated Press and Haaretz, Nov 03, 2019)

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pushed the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee servers, Manafort's deputy told investigators during the special counsel's Russia probe. The unsubstantiated theory, advanced by President Donald Trump even after he took office, would later help trigger the impeachment inquiry now consuming the White House.

Notes from an FBI interview were released Saturday after lawsuits by BuzzFeed News and CNN led to public access to hundreds of pages of documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The documents, which tie the Republican National Committee to Wikileaks, included summaries of interviews with other figures from the Mueller probe, including Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


A people without a state (The Week, November 3, 2019)

Who are the Kurds?

A tough mountain people, the Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East -- after Arabs, Persians, and Turks -- and have their own distinct culture and language. Nearly all are Sunni Muslims, but they have many tribes and are far from a monolithic group. Over the centuries, they have handed down their traditions through music, with bards singing folktales and stories of Kurdish feats in battle. Spread out mostly over four countries and now numbering some 30 million, the Kurds have pressed time and again for a homeland since the 19th century, only to have their hopes dashed when great powers broke their promises. Several times since the 1970s, the U.S. gave them military aid to fight a common foe, and then abandoned them, leaving thousands of Kurds to be killed and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee. As a Kurdish proverb says, the Kurds have "no friends but the mountains."

Why don't they have a country?

After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, victorious Western powers agreed in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres to create a Kurdish state. But three years later, in the wheeling and dealing over the boundaries of modern Turkey, Britain and France dropped their demand for a Kurdish homeland, and Kurds were left as large minorities in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, with small minorities in the Caucasus. All the nations where Kurds now live are opposed to granting them a homeland or true autonomy -- ­particularly Turkey.

While entering WWI at all was a mistake, choosing to lose it was catastrophic.  Nearly all modern wars are a function of Wilson preferring his utopian League to the salutary decolonization of the Third World.  A people who think themselves a nation are one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Fox News Guest Invited to Talk About Military Dogs Blurts Out Jeffrey 'Epstein Didn't Kill Himself' (Connor Mannion, Nov 2nd, 2019, Mediate)

Watters was finishing up his segment on Watters' World with Mike Ritland, who is the founder of the Warrior Dog Foundation. The nonprofit is dedicated to finding homes for military dogs that are no longer in service and in need of a home.

Ritland asked if he could offer a PSA about military dogs as news coverage swirls about the dog who helped take down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"The remarkable nature of these dogs and them being highlighted in news creates a huge demand by people that frankly shouldn't have them. If you see the coverage and you decide I want one of these dogs either buy a fully trained and finished dog from a professional or don't get one at all," Ritland said.

"Epstein didn't kill himself," he added.

"Alright," Watters said, at first not apparently realizing what Ritland just said. Watters then started laughing and said "OK."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Children were told to 'build the wall' at White House Halloween party (Jana Winter, Hunter Walker and Caitlin Dickson-,Yahoo News•November 2, 2019, Yahoo! News)

 A Halloween party on Oct. 25 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building featured candy, paper airplanes and -- concerning for some attendees -- a station where children were encouraged to help "Build the Wall" with their own personalized bricks.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


A stunning confession from a Deep State member subverting the constitutional republic (Thomas Lifson, 11/02/19, American Thinker)

Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller describes what I call his confession, responding to a question from the moderator:

"There is something unique you have to agree that now the impeachment inquiry is underway, sparked by a complaint from someone within the intelligence community, it feeds the president's concern, an often used term about a 'deep state' being there to take him out," Margaret Brennan, the moderator for the event, asked McLaughlin.

"Thank God for the 'deep state,'" replied the former spook, who served as acting director at the CIA in 2004.

Laughter and applause greeted this endorsement of "tak[ing] out" an elected president.

McLaghin kept on digging when the applause died down:

"Everyone here has seen this progression of diplomats and intelligence officers and White House people trooping up to Capitol Hill right now and saying these are doing their duty and responding to a higher call," said McLaughlin, who has also served as CIA deputy director.

"With all of the people who knew what was going on here, it took an intelligence officer to step forward and say something about it, which was the trigger that then unleashed everything else," he said.

Consider for a moment the implications of his term "higher call."

Mr. Lifson can consider it for a moment; they pledge to consider it every moment of every day:

"I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Trump defends border wall design after report smugglers are sawing through it (CHRISTIAN VASQUEZ, 11/02/2019, Politico)

"We have a very powerful wall. But no matter how powerful, you can cut through anything, in all fairness. But we have a lot of people watching. You know cutting, cutting is one thing, but it's easily fixed. One of the reasons we did it the way we did it, it's very easily fixed. You put the chunk back in," Trump told reporters at the White House.

A Washington Post report published Saturday said smugglers have repeatedly sawed through newly built sections of the wall using a widely available cordless reciprocating saw that costs as little as $100. Gangs are also using makeshift ladders to scale the barriers, the Post reported.

Poor guy thought they'd behave more like his followers and not seek to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Democracy Is on the March, Not in Retreat (Pankaj Mishra, November 2, 2019, Blooomberg View)

But one political shock after another revealed that, as Tocqueville wrote, people in the democratic age "have an ardent, insatiable, eternal, invincible passion" for equality, and that "they will tolerate poverty, enslavement, barbarism, but they will not tolerate aristocracy." This intolerance is again evident in the furious anti-elite revolts in the West today.

It is even more strikingly manifest in the postcolonial world, which since the Arab Spring has hosted the world's biggest mass upsurges.

Those above the age of 40 can recall a time in Asia and Africa when extreme deference, if not fear, marked the relationship between rulers and the ruled, rich and poor, and upper and lower classes and castes. Assured of immunity, the wealthy and powerful got away with murder -- sometimes literally. A small, incestuous elite stole from the state's coffers and splurged in London, New York and Paris, boosting the profits of real estate agents, Harrods and Bloomingdale's, not to mention party planners and glamorous escort services.

A reminder of those good times for the Suhartos, Bhuttos and Mubaraks of the Third World is provided today by Lebanon's recently departed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who allegedly showered a $16 million gift on a bikini model he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles. 

Even in India, supposedly the world's largest democracy, a single family dominated politics for decades, including a loyal few in its network of patronage but excluding countless others. Visitors marveled at the infinite forbearance of the degraded and suffering millions, wondering why they did not mutiny against their cruel masters.

Social hierarchies finally began to crack faster from the 1990s, with broader politicization and the growth of literacy, satellite television channels and digital media. Massive street protests against a corrupt ruling elite in India in 2011 were the first sign that Indian society and politics were about to be radically transformed.

Indeed, the protests set the stage for Narendra Modi, who rose to power denouncing venal and inept dynasts and claiming to represent their victims. Likewise, massive social unrest over bus fare hikes in Brazil paved the way for Jair Bolsonaro.  

There is no guarantee that the current upsurge against ruling elites won't empower demagogues. In late 19th century Europe, far-right and anti-Semitic movements also hijacked the demand for democracy, marginalizing left-leaning and liberal parties.

The practical challenge, now as much as then, is how to make mass democracy compatible with individual liberty -- how to find political and economic institutions capable of deploying the tremendous energy of social mobilization for the larger good.

One of the things that perplexed the Times in the referenced story is the increasing failure of social protests movements, but that too is simply a function of democratization.  Occupy, the Green Movement, the Tea Party, the Yellow Vests, etc., are rebelling against democracy, so they are naturally seen as illegitimate.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Mueller interview notes obtained by CNN show Trump's push for stolen emails (Katelyn Polantz, November 2, 2019, CNN)

President Donald Trump and other top 2016 Trump campaign officials repeatedly privately discussed how the campaign could get access to stolen Democratic emails WikiLeaks had in 2016, according to newly released interview notes from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

CNN sued the Justice Department for access to Mueller's witness interview notes, and this weekend's release marks the first publicly available behind-the-scenes look at Mueller's investigative work outside of court proceedings and the report itself. Per a judge's order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of the Mueller investigative notes monthly to CNN and Buzzfeed News, which also sued for them.

A retelling of events from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is the fullest detail revealed by the Justice Department yet on discussions within the Trump campaign as it pursued damaging information about its Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


New report shows once-coveted UFC demographic has gotten old ... fast (Ryan Harkness  Jun 7, 2017, MMA Mania)

A new report from Sports Business Journal has the median age of UFC television viewers pegged at 49 years old. That's far outside the desirable -- and incredibly marketable -- "Men Aged 18-34" demographic that the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion used to score 10 years ago.

Here's the report:

The study, conducted exclusively for SportsBusiness Journal by Magna Global, looked at live, regular-season game coverage of major sports across both broadcast and cable television in 2000, 2006 and 2016. It showed that while the median age of viewers of most sports, except the WTA, NBA and MLS, is aging faster than the overall U.S. population, it is doing so at a slower pace than prime-time TV.

And they still booed him.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 AM


US white supremacist arrested in Norway (Deutsche Welle, 11/02/19)

Norwegian public broadcaster NRK and the newspaper Dagbladet identified the man in custody as Greg Johnson, a far-right publicist based, according to Associated Press, in Seattle. [...]

The US Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist and hate groups, lists Johnson as the "editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, an epicenter of 'academic' white nationalism."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 AM


Bennett warns a third election will 'collapse' the right (MICHAEL BACHNER, 11/03/19, Times of Israel)

Bennett said Saturday that he would be prepared to sit in the opposition if a Likud-Blue and White unity government is formed, telling Channel 12: "If I am an obstacle to forming a government, I release Netanyahu from any commitment to me and to the New Right and am ready to sit in the opposition. The main thing is to get a government established."

Leaders of rival Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party have claimed the premier's bloc is preventing them from forming a government. Netanyahu has insisted on negotiating on behalf of all 55 MKs; Blue and White has said the stance is a transparent ruse to ensure Gantz cannot form a government, dooming Israel to yet another election.

On Sunday morning, Bennett further warned in an Army Radio interview: "If we reach elections for the third time we will see a historic collapse of the right-wing bloc. We will find ourselves with a full-blown left-wing government."

Bennett's fellow New Right member Ayelet Shaked echoed that sentiment, also in an Army Radio interview, saying that "if we reach third elections, the right-wing rule is in danger. We could end up with a left-wing government."