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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 Ryan Gonsalves’ promotion was withdrawn after an inspector general’s report determined he had likely used the term in reference to the unidentified female Langevin employee during an October 2016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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For the Part of the Country That Sees the Refugee Program as a Danger

Given that every tweet and extemporaneous comment from the Trump administration is being deemed newsworthy even by local papers, this — reported by Leo Hohmann on World Net Daily — would seem worthy of mention:

Doetsch retired about two months ago as a refugee coordinator. One of her assignments was at a United Nations refugee camp in Jordan, from which many of the Syrian refugees are flowing into the U.S. She did three tours of duty, in Cairo, Egypt, dealing with Middle East refugees; in Vienna, Austria, with mostly African refugees coming in through Malta; and in Cuba.

Her letter affirms two-and-a-half years of reporting by WND, which has reported that the “vetting” of refugees from broken countries such as Somalia, Syria and Sudan often consists largely of a personal interview with the refugee. These countries have no law enforcement data to vet against the personal story relayed to the U.S. government about the refugee’s background. Sometimes even their name and identity is fabricated and they have no documentation, such as a valid passport, or they have fraudulent documentation.

We really are dividing into a nation of two realities.  In the case at hand, one part of the country sees the refugee program as a clear vulnerability that has resulted in atrocities in other countries and (at the least) warning signs in the United States; the other part of the country sees it as a way to save good people from a terrible situation at little cost and no significant risk.

This state of affairs might change if the supposedly objective news organizations weren’t so slanted or, alternatively, if their slant were more honestly acknowledged and people felt it their duty to get both sides of every issue.

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Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.

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In a Bad Place with the Impolite Trump

Let’s be very, very clear:  As superficially satisfying as many of us on the right may find it, President-elect Trump’s treatment of the CNN reporter at his press conference today wasn’t appropriate.  CNN didn’t exactly sneak into the press conference, and many Americans still use it as a source for information.  Trump’s style may differ, but there are ways for a president to express disapproval without excluding journalists and, in turn, their audiences.

That said, Trump is less likely to receive push-back from his political allies than he should be for two reasons.  First, the double standard of the mainstream media leaves its practitioners deserving of ire.  Here’s a fresh example:  After weeks of hearing how unconscionable it was of Russia to use hacking and other methods to manipulate the American public, Politico reports:

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

If these efforts had worked out and Clinton had been elected, would she be the subject of as much aspersion as Trump has been with respect to Russia?  Not a chance.  That fact leaves conservatives who aren’t comfortable with Trump’s style, views, or policies less likely to echo a media that we find so incredibly un-credible.

But that’s only the first-level problem.  The deeper hindrance is that the mainstream media aided, rather than checked, President Obama when his administration suppressed the Tea Party.  Consequently, we’ve less leverage on our side.  As Glenn Reynolds often writes, the government and media crushed the polite Tea Party; welcome to the impolite consequence.

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Senator Reed Gets to the Heart of the Russian Hacking Story

A remark by Democrat Senator Reed in a recent Providence Journal article by Donita Naylor deserves notice and comment:

Three of Rhode Island’s four congressmen have called for a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference with the U.S. election of 2016.

“Our elections should be decided by American citizens, not foreign hackers, heads of state, or their propagandists,” U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Friday in reaction to a U.S. intelligence report saying Russia had “actively manipulated” the election.

Reed helpfully gets to the heart of the matter:  Nobody at all is alleging that the election was not decided by American citizens.  At worst, we chose to give credence to information — some false, like “fake news,” but some apparently true, like the Democrat email releases — regardless of the source.

That isn’t a minor distinction, and it’s difficult not to see Reed’s complaint as essentially that elections should be decided by the elites who presume to tell Americans what to believe.

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The Missing Point in the Russian Hacking Story

Any way you look at it, this information, if true, is disconcerting:

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials – including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election – contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

To some extent, what follows might be considered inflammatory, so I want to preface it with the disclaimer that my intention is to express a feeling.  That feeling may be in need of correction, but acknowledging it would be the first step toward doing that.

I figured out what the missing piece of this whole controversy is for me.  The information about Russian “hacking” is just sort of being thrown out there without a clear “and so.”  Consequently, the effort just seems nakedly political, without a point.  In general, one would expect the point of an opposition-party Congressional inquiry to be the failure of the current administration, whether forgivable or not, to guard against such actions.  Prompted by the executive branch, the point might be to further some policy for a response, as in the build up to war.

But this just seems like a post facto rationalization why something political happened that the people who try to predetermine our electoral outcomes didn’t foresee and to throw mud on the incoming administration.  It’s all just so bizarre, and frankly, unless the Russians did something more like real hacking than releasing true information about the Democrats, it isn’t crazy to feel like they were — albeit by sheer coincidence — more on the side of the American people than those who hold us in such contempt that they think it’s self evidently corrupt when their status as our ruling class is challenged.

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Hacking the Narrative

It continues to astonish that discussion of why hacking Democrats’ emails and making them public was so damaging to their presidential candidate is hardly part of the reporting on the hack.

Bob Plain @bobplain How Russians hacked the DNC and handed the election to Trump. Fantastic story telling. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/russia-hack-election-dnc.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=a-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Justin Katz @JustinKatzRI @bobplain Honest question: How important is it that the Dems’ internal communications were so damaging?

I don’t believe it’s reasonable to claim that the Russians “handed the election to Trump.”  As I’ve already written, the hacked emails were only part of a wave of information coming out from different sources, and all of it painted basically the same picture of Hillary Clinton and her associates.  Picking the most objectionable of those sources for special attention is simply a way of avoiding a serious look at the substance of what we learned during the election.

But speaking of things we’re learning, I’d suggest that Americans should take a moment to compare the DNC’s handling of hacking, as described in the New York Times, including a lackadaisical response to FBI warnings, with the Wall Street Journal’s report that the same hackers didn’t get past the RNC’s filter.

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