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Judge “Treason” by Deeds

In national politics, the outrage-a-day ethos that the news media has pursued since President Donald Trump became a serious candidate has made it a matter of urgency to comment on anything on which a writer might think to comment.  Wait a few days in order to take care of items of more actual relevance, and the tempest on which one had something to say is no longer relevant.

Well, I’m not sure where we are with the whole “Trump is a Russian asset” mania, but for the sake of offering my little corrective to the monolithic certainty one sees among Rhode Island’s news and commentary folks, here’s Mark Tapscott’s “10 Ways Trump Put Real Muscle in U.S. Policies, Defenses Against Russia“:

That “something [beneficial that might come from the Russia hysteria” is a sharper public understanding of the numerous ways in which Trump has reversed the accommodation, wavering and vacillation that marked former President Barack Obama’s approach during his eight years in the Oval Office to dealing with Putin.

Obama’s weakness was epitomized by the “red line” he drew in Syria against chemical weapons. Obama did nothing when Syria’s Russian-backed dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, killed hundreds of civilians with chlorine gas.

Putin subsequently annexed Crimea and openly backed insurgents trying to return Ukraine to Russian control.

While U.S. intelligence and military assets have undertaken multiple unpublicized measures since Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, the following dozen initiatives on the public record amount to a near-complete reversal of the Obama years.

Have people forgotten the truism that we should watch people’s actions, not their words?  The United States is still backing Ukraine and is pressuring Europe to increase its resilience in the face of Russia.  Probably most importantly, we continue to build our energy output, which drains the Russian economy.  Those aren’t the actions of a foreign government’s “asset.”

In fact, they’re just about the opposite of the policies pursued by our prior president, whom a hot mic caught transmitting a message to Vladimir that he’d have more flexibility once he’d won reelection.

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Hints of Actual Progress in North Korea?

This seems like a pretty significant development, reported by Eileen Connelly in the New York Post (via Instapundit):

Murals, banners and posters displayed throughout the capital, Pyongyang, have for decades depicted the U.S. as a brutal, imperialist aggressor hell-bent on destroying the North Korean regime. South Korea and Japan were also frequently targeted as willing allies of the U.S.

But things started to take an Orwellian turn in the run-up to Kim’s June 12 summit with President Donald Trump, with the old posters vanishing since then.

“All the anti-American posters I usually see around Kim Il-sung Square and at shops, they’ve all just gone,” Rowan Beard, a tour manager at Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters. “In five years working in North Korea, I’ve never seen them completely disappear before.”

Inheriting a repressive regime during a global revolution in communications technology put Kim Jong-un in a difficult spot.  Keeping the people who live in his country entirely isolated could only last so much longer, yet loosening controls means letting in the truth to the masses whom his family has brutally repressed for generations while creating an opportunity for some lesser dictator to execute a coup and claim credit for a minor improvement in living standards.

The combined wealth of the United States, China, and South Korea, however, could provide quite a period of rapid improvement to ease the peninsula back toward some sort of reunification, with enough of a boost maybe (maybe) to rocket people’s gratitude and relief past their resentment and enough protection to keep ambitious underlings from seeing an opportunity.  This is all speculation, of course, but it actually isn’t that hard to believe that a dictator would be willing to exchange total (but precarious) control of a hellhole for untold wealth and perhaps credit as a national savior if foreign money and cooperation can manage the flip.

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Keeping Tabs on the Flynn Story

Given his connection to Rhode Island (he grew up in Middletown and went to URI), General Michael Flynn’s involvement with the Trump White House and plea bargain after special counsel Robert Mueller accused him of lying to the FBI has been a big topic for the local news media.  The Providence Journal’s G. Wayne Miller even won an award for a profile titled “Before the Fall.”

Given that this local interest seems to have petered out as the Mueller investigation has come into question, including around Flynn’s plea bargain, it’s important to note how the story is changing for this local boy who made it big.  Lawyer/blogger John Hinderaker has followed the story in detail and believed the case against Flynn was “incredibly weak,” in part because the evidence is all in summary notes made by FBI agents, rather than recorded or transcribed.  Now he highlights the following detail published in The Hill:

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) suggested Thursday in an interview wth Hill.TV’s “Rising” that evidence may have been tampered with in the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. …

Meadows suggested one focus is whether FBI interview reports — known as 302 reports — about Flynn were altered to improve the chances he’d be prosecuted.

We don’t know what evidence Meadows might cite, but given recent revelations about political corruption in the FBI, especially with Peter Strzok, one of the agents who interviewed Flynn, it isn’t difficult to believe that they set him up for a process charge so Mueller could squeeze him for information that might snag the President of the United States, whom they despise.

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Dueling Conservative Analyses of Russiagate Memos

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The Damage of Gender Bias

While I’m on the topic of honest, mature conversations, is it a step too far to mention this, from Roger Clegg on National Review Online?

There’s an interesting new paper discussed here by Mark Perry at AEI about an international phenomenon called the “educational-gender-equality paradox — the greater the degree of gender equality among 67 countries studied . . . the lower the female share of STEM college graduates.” As The Atlantic puts it, “In countries that empower women, they are less likely to choose math and science professions.” It’s about choice, then, not discrimination.

For a broader point, mix in Jazz Shaw’s commentary, “Marines Quietly Lower Combat Training Requirements To Help Female Officers“:

… the fact is, there were a few women completing the CET. In the first year of trials, three women made it through, though they didn’t finish the entire IOC. And wasn’t that always the expectation? We supposedly weren’t guaranteeing any particular number of women roles as combat officers in the Marine Corps. We were just giving them the opportunity to try and prove they have what it takes.

But now, some aspiring officers (presumably of both genders) who fail to complete the CET will still make it through and lead Marines into combat. You can say that you’re “not lowering the standards” until you’re blue in the face, but it sure looks that way from the outside.

In the first case, our society apparently takes the view that it must increase incentives for women to do work that of which they may be entirely capable, but in which they have less interest than men.  In the second case, we appear to be lowering standards in order, perhaps, to get to the point that same point.

All of these identity politics dances will only lower our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself, while arguably contributing to an epidemic of male suicide and drug overdoses.  At some point we have to take seriously the possibility that lowering our civilization’s ability to advance and to defend itself is the objective.

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Two Blows to the Collusion Narrative

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A “Sweetheart” Deal on a Compromised Military

If the facts that Ted Nesi reports on WPRI are the entirety of the story, we’re at a bizarre and dangerous crossroads in our country:

A U.S. Army general’s nomination to receive a third star has been pulled after he reportedly referred to one of Congressman Jim Langevin’s staff members as “sweetheart.”

Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, reported that Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonsalves’ promotion was withdrawn after an inspector general’s report determined he had likely used the term in reference to the unidentified female Langevin employee during an October 2016 meeting.

As is always necessary, let’s assess the situation objectively:  We have, here, the potential promotion of an executive tasked with preparing and guiding the country’s forces in the matter of war, with some indication that he might have been headed for command of all U.S. Army forces in Europe.

War, as a reminder, is an armed conflict in which two sides in an otherwise irresolvable dispute kill each other’s people until one side concludes that the dispute is not worth the losses that it will suffer (or that it cannot win at all).  It is manifestly in a nation’s interest to have the most competent leadership possible when it comes to the military, as proven by their record of military service and acumen in the conduct of military affairs.

The question of whether General Gonsalves is such a leader (on which I have no evidence beyond the absence of other reported complaints against him in these articles) is not well determined through a he-said-she-said verbal controversy resulting from a single meeting with a testy political staffer, especially considering that we have not been provided any context at all indicating her behavior during the meeting.

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Breathless Reporting… Signifying Nothing

Umm, folks, despite the copious news coverage, there’s absolutely nothing here:

Kushner was identified as a “very senior” transition official, who directed Flynn to contact foreign governments, including Russia, about a U.N. Security Council resolution last December.

And KT McFarland, who served as Flynn’s deputy national security adviser, was a “senior” transition official involved in discussions with Flynn about what to relay to Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., about the response to U.S. sanctions levied by the Obama administration.

The left-wing journalists of the mainstream media want people to feel as if the Trump administration is teetering on the edge of impeachable revelation, but if this is all they’ve got, they got nothin’.  Between the election and the inauguration, the Trump transition team began making contact with foreign officials in order to ensure that nothing happened for lack of knowledge about proximate policy changes with the new administration.  That isn’t scandalous; it’s exactly what Americans should want an incoming administration to do.

Not surprisingly, conservative writer Andrew McCarthy is much more informative, and his conclusion strikes me as exactly correct:

The ongoing Mueller probe is not a good-faith investigation of suspected espionage or other crime. It is the exploitation of the executive’s intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement powers in order to (a) criminalize Trump political policies with which the Obama administration disagreed and (b) frame Clinton’s electoral defeat as the product of a traitorous scheme rather than a rejection of Democratic-party priorities.

McCarthy is speaking in government/political terms.  If we bring the news media’s behavior into the mix, we should add something: (c) keep newspapers and TV news shows filled with a sense of scandal to make it more difficult for the Trump administration to accomplish anything and have Americans so longing for some relief from the noise by the next election that they’ll swing the election to journalists’ favored party.  A similar campaign ushered in Obama after Bush received similar treatment, so this isn’t even an innovative strategy.

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Hiding the Incompetence

Some more educational reporting from the Associated Press appearing in the Providence Journal, in this case having to do with the FBI’s failure to warn officials that Russian hackers were targeting them.  Most astonishing is how easily any reader who doesn’t follow the timeline could miss the fact that this all went on under the watchful eye of the Obama administration.

In fact, the only mention of the relevant president comes when the journalists allow somebody from his administration to offer a critical view, as if somebody else had done it:

“The expectation that the government is going to protect everyone and go back to everyone is false,” said Nicholas Eftimiades, a retired senior technical officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who teaches homeland security at Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg and was himself among the targets.

But the government is supposed to try, said Michael Daniel, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House cybersecurity coordinator.

Unsurprisingly, the article also doesn’t miss the opportunity to make it seem as if President Trump is somehow responsible because he supposedly was the beneficiary of the hacking.

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Rhode Island Government’s Reverse Robin Hood for General Dynamics

An interesting she-said-she-said slips by in Alex Nunes’s Providence Journal article on the Rhode Island government’s incentive give-aways to Electric Boat (a subsidiary of General Dynamics):

“[Electric Boat President Jeffrey Geiger] was essentially saying to me, ‘Look, we have these new contracts. We need to hire … thousands of people. We want to hire Rhode Islanders, but you need to do your part,’” [Democrat Governor Gina] Raimondo recalled in a recent interview in her office. …

“Nobody’s asking the local, state government, or the federal government to do this [employee training] work for us,” [Electric Boat Human Resources Vice President Maura] Dunn said in an interview at the company’s Groton offices.

That said, Dunn does call the training a “community project,” which implies other people doing at least some of the work.

The debate throws off a lot of numbers, as well as undefined phrases like “doing their part,” but here’s one set of numbers I found interesting:

According to General Dynamics’ annual report, 2016 was a record fiscal year for the company, with $31.4 billion in overall sales and revenues of $8.2 billion in the Marine Systems group, which includes submarine-building.

The company’s market capitalization, a measure of the value of a publicly traded business, also reached $52.6 billion by year’s end on a nearly 26-percent increase in its stock price.

According to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Rhode Island’s GDP for 2016 was $57.4 billion.  In other words, the total market capitalization of General Dynamics is nearly as big as Rhode Island’s economy for all industries.  Does the company really need Rhode Island to take millions of dollars from other industries and individuals and focus it on one business’s narrow needs, profiting its investors at record-setting rates?

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How Was It Not Obvious That You Never Tell the Enemy When You’ll Be Done?

Jessica Donati’s thoughts upon leaving her Afghanistan assignment with the Wall Street Journal are worth a read, if you can get past the pay wall, but this is the part that seems most timely, just now:

The Obama administration’s military surge ended in 2012, but local forces weren’t prepared to take over. The Taliban swept through rural areas, and an Islamic State insurgency took root, capitalizing on popular frustration with a government often seen as dominated by brutal former warlords.

The surge-and-slip-away strategy was an obviously problematic one to anybody who pays even passing attention to human nature and has a cursory familiarity with history.  The same can be said of this, from Vance Serchuk’s commentary on President Trump’s stated policy for that nation (also WSJ… sorry):

The first and most important of [the lesson that Trump appears to have learned from the Bush and Obama administrations’ results] is the rejection of fixed timetables for U.S. withdrawal. Instead the president is taking a conditions-based approach that removes any deadline for pulling out.

That’s significant because America’s recurring efforts to extricate itself from Afghanistan—from the Bush administration’s push to hand over the Afghan mission to NATO, to the Obama administration’s pledge to bring all forces home by the end of its term in office—have helped foster the very conditions that have forced the U.S. to stay.

This U.S. exit-seeking has encouraged the Taliban to think it can outlast America on the battlefield, deterred Afghan civilians from siding with the coalition, and given regional powers like Pakistan incentives to hedge against the U.S. by supporting insurgent groups.

Again, how was this not obvious beforehand?  Scheduling a departure — even making it clear that you’d rather leave than settle in — changes the enemy’s strategy to digging in and waiting.  So, the enemy waited.  Obama looked for the first plausible moment to hand off control to an inchoate authority.  And now we’re still there and moving back in.

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Some Real Scandals We Hear Less About than We Should

The headline given to Tyler O’Neil’s recent PJMedia essay probably captures the sense of many of us on the political right: “Imran Awan Scandal Shows Just How Much Dirt Dems Wanted to Hide By Focusing on Trump-Russia.”  Over on National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy offers a worthy summary, with due incredulity:

… the proceeds of the fraudulent $165,000 loan they’d gotten from the Congressional Federal Credit Union had been sent ahead. It was part of a $283,000 transfer that Awan managed to wire from Capitol Hill. He pulled it off — hilariously, if infuriatingly — by pretending to be his wife in a phone call with the credit union. Told that his proffered reason for the transfer (“funeral arrangements”) wouldn’t fly, “Mrs.” Awan promptly repurposed: Now “she” was “buying property.” Asking no more questions, the credit union wired the money . . . to Pakistan.

As you let all that sink in, consider this: Awan and his family cabal of fraudsters had access for years to the e-mails and other electronic files of members of the House’s Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees. It turns out they were accessing members’ computers without their knowledge, transferring files to remote servers, and stealing computer equipment — including hard drives that Awan & Co. smashed to bits of bytes before making tracks.

On NewsBusters, Tim Graham notes how little coverage the issue is getting in the mainstream media, including avoidance of party designations and some the more-disturbing aspects of the story, such as national security implications.  Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds offers a significant observation with his habitual insight and brevity:

Weird how, since the connection to Democratic dirty-tricks firm Fusion GPS came up, the press stopped talking about the Russia “collusion” story overnight.

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The Purpose of the Military

The most disturbing aspect of the rhetorical style of modern progressives is its peremptory, irrational foundation.  Disagreeing with them is simply bigotry, leaving no room for debate.  All contrary arguments are irrelevant to the overriding moral mandate to do what they want to do.

This dynamic may be most visible in the matter of transgenders in the military, on which David French has already articulated my view:

The military is different. You’re trying to forge men into a team, place them into the most stressful situations humanity has ever seen, and get them to perform under pressure. Oh, and in total war you need numbers. Lots of numbers — but without fracturing unit cohesion, coddling weakness, or taking on unacceptable risks.

So, here’s what you do — you make group decisions. Do people with certain kinds of criminal backgrounds tend to be more trouble than they’re worth? They’re out. How about folks with medical conditions that have a tendency to flare up in the field. They’re out also. It’s foolish to create a force that contains numbers of people who are disproportionately likely to have substantial problems. Increased injuries lead to manpower shortages in the field. Prolonged absences create training gaps. Physical weakness leads to poor performance.

The military is people fighting and dying in order to preserve our nation, not a place to make social statements to accelerate acceptance.  Even putting aside any awkwardness and discomfort, as French points out, transgenders as a population exhibit higher rates of warning signs about which the military is rightly concerned.

But putting aside awkwardness and discomfort is a step too far.  Progressives’ message to those brave Americans who join the military is, and has long been, “Hey, thanks for agreeing to risk your lives on our behalf, now we’ll just insist that you also accept our leveraging our control over you to make you accept our most radical beliefs.”

This, you’ll note, is in keeping with the rhetorical style mentioned above. Nothing is more important than pushing the Left’s beliefs — not others’ right to disagree and not even the existence of our civilization.

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Allowing the Jihadist Cloud Darken the Age

Writing on the terrorist attack in Manchester, Mark Steyn reflects on a suggested course of action that we’ve been hearing in this country since 9/11:

“Carrying on exactly as before”, as The Independent advises, will not be possible. A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it’s smaller and more constrained.

To put the best spin possible on the West’s reaction to Islamism’s attacks, we’ve been trying to find the balance between security and respect for others’ rights.  That would be a more successful strategy if it weren’t for the stultifying political correctness with which we’re currently infected.  Questioning the actual wisdom of “coexist” stickers even just a little would mean we get to maintain more liberties and need less-strenuous security.

I share Steyn’s pessimism about the future.  Little by little, as people change their decisions in response to perceived risks, our society will change — not because our children have been persuaded that teenage diva-pop really isn’t worth their time, but because parents aren’t willing to sacrifice them for enjoyment of such fluff.

The politically correct fantasy is fluff, too, and we shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice our society for its enjoyment.  We’ll only get to carry on as before if we shed those indulgences of self-loathing that we’ve permitted to fester.  Not only our children, but our society is worth defending, and we should start acting like it.

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Creeping Sharia and Freedom of Speech

Mark Steyn describes how (and how quickly) the West is caving to the censorious demands of hard-line Muslims:

I have had the privilege of sharing stages with Ayaan Hirsi Ali at various places around the world from London to California. It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels already like the past – a previous era, just the day before yesterday but already the rules have changed. In 2015, I spoke in Copenhagen at an event to mark the tenth anniversary of the famous “Mohammed cartoons”. As on the fifth anniversary, it required the protection of PET, the Danish security police. But this time, as an additional precaution, it had to be moved inside the fortress-thick walls of the Danish Parliament in order to lessen further the likelihood of fellows who regard debate as a waste of time (and, indeed,an affront) busting in and shooting us all. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all the security, both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office issued formal warnings advising their nationals to steer clear of the Parliament building that day.

The group presenting at the event had scheduled a dinner afterwards, but when security went to do an initial review of the place, the restaurant owners panicked and canceled the event, according to Steyn.  So, the story is two-parts radical Islam, but one-part Western timidity.  Flip those fractions, if you like; the screaming snowflakes who can’t stand contrary opinions on “their” campuses are merely the enforcers of the rule that Western Civilization must stand down.

As Steyn writes, “they’re all in the shut-up business.”

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Who Ordered the Code Red, Smoking Gun

This Eli Lake article from Bloomberg seems like kind of a big deal.  I wonder how much we’ll actually hear about it from the news media:

White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Rice, you may recall, was the primary face of the Obama Administration’s like about the background of the Benghazi attack.  Things get stranger, too:

The National Security Council’s senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice’s multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel’s office, who reviewed more of Rice’s requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.

Why would the White House General Counsel order this research stopped?  Were Obama holdovers still calling the shots, or was there some other reason?

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