Bad Advice From The Boss

Headline: "Obama Urges Troops To “Criticize Our President” & “Protest Against Authority” In Final Address."

Servicemembers wanting to take the President's advice here might want to brush up on a couple of articles of the UCMJ, just to be safe. A servicemember can criticize the President, and it sometimes may even be that one should, but some of the things that President Obama has said about his successor could merit significant punishment.

Don't worry, though: I'm sure there will be plenty of criticism of the President to go around.

Not Exactly a Russia Hawk

On the other hand, our apparent next Secretary of State does have extensive experience working closely with Russia on oil and gas contracts. He has shown himself capable of getting things done with Putin's government, in other words.

In the wake of yesterday's revelations that Russian hacking was aimed at benefiting the Trump campaign, I suppose the appointment of someone with close business ties to Russia must be troubling to Trump's critics. On the other hand, it nicely explains why Russia would have supported him against Clinton. Clinton's stated intent was to throw up a No Fly Zone in Syria that would have had American warplanes flying against Russian ones, the very next step away from war. Trump, like this new Secretary of State nominee, thinks of Russia first and foremost as a business partner.

Why would Russia try to put its finger on the scale of America's election? This is why. It is, from the perspective of statecraft, quite a sharp set of moves: for the cheap price of some influence operations, they avoided the immediate risk of a hot war with the United States, and gained an opportunity to advance their business interests in a more favorable environment.

I do not take seriously the suggestion that Trump or his new nominee are Russian pawns -- but they don't have to be. It was a good move for Russia if they are just not quite so eager to start a new war, and interested instead in economic development. The fact that both men have extensive business interests in Russia also gives the Russians levers to work against them (which is one reason Trump really should put his stuff in a blind trust, though I doubt that he will -- I expect him to pass the business to his children, where it will still serve Russia' interests). You don't need to bribe them or suborn them. You just give them reasons not to want to fight, because there's so much to gain by not fighting.

Putin is a vicious man, but he's also a very smart one. Russia has a weak position but he has played it excellently. Without in any sense excusing his acts of tyranny, it is easy to admire his skill. I wonder if anyone on our team is going to be as good at this game, or if we even have anyone who sees it as a game of strategy in the same way.

"Combatting Political Islam"

A piece by two experts on the subject, David Reaboi and Kyle Shideler.
For decades, a bipartisan American foreign policy consensus has endorsed engagement with and promotion of Islamists in an attempt to use them as a counterweight, to either other Islamic terror groups or larger geopolitical adversaries.

Seeking to engage Muslim Brotherhood officials or franchises has a long historical pedigree within our foreign policy establishment. As Ian Johnson documented in his outstanding history, A Mosque in Munich, America first turned to Islamists in the early days of the Cold War in order to nurture alternatives to the Soviets. During that time, however, many in the U.S. foreign policy establishment seemed to recognize that, ultimately, the long-term objectives of the Islamists were both anti-democratic and harmful to American national interests. An internal analysis from the period noted that leading Muslim Brotherhood figure Said Ramadan—then a guest in the Eisenhower White House who was backed by the CIA—was “a fascist” and obsessed with seizing power.

Unfortunately, such a blunt assessment of the U.S. government’s Islamist interlocutors seems as quaint today as a 1950s TV commercial. By 2009 skepticism of Islamists’ long-term goals had been thoroughly abandoned, as President Obama formally announced the full-throated promotion of political Islam as the legitimate expression of democratic will throughout the Middle East.
In addition to the piece, you should really read that Mosque in Munich book. It goes sadly well with the immediately previous post. It's a great story of an early CIA mission with all the swagger they used to have in the postwar period, and it provides a helpful introduction to the deep history of some of the current conflicts involving political Islam. If you know someone who likes such stories, it might make a good Christmas gift.

At Least Someone Has A Sense of Humor About It

Courts to "Install" Clinton?

As far as I know, nobody is even thinking about filing a suit along these lines -- but the thought has crossed the mind of a writer at the Huff Po. This approach would not end well. least one court decision suggests there is some federal authority to invalidate the election outcome after the fact.

In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the ruling of a federal district judge in Pennsylvania that invalidated a state senate election and ordered the vacancy be filled by the losing opponent.

The Pennsylvania state senate held a special election in November 1993 to fill a seat that had been left vacant by the death of the previous democratic senator, and pitted Republican Bruce Marks against Democrat William G. Stinson for the spot. Stinson was named the winner, but massive fraud was later uncovered that resulted in litigation.

Two of the elected officials who testified in the Pennsylvania case said under oath that they were aware of the fraud, had intentionally failed to enforce laws, and hurried to certify Stinson the winner in order to bury the story. The narrative recalls the Washington Post’s revelation that Republican Mitch McConnell was aware of the CIA’s conclusion that Russians had intervened and opted to do nothing.

In February 1994, after Stinson had already taken office, a federal judge ordered he “be removed from his State Senate office and that [his opponent, Bruce Marks] be certified the winner within 72 hours.”

Stinson appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but ultimately, this was the first known case in which a federal judge reversed an election outcome. In January 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the ruling to stand.
On what basis could a Federal court claim the power to decide who would run a co-equal branch of government? Or do we not recognize any limits on Federal courts now?

We're getting into dangerous waters.

Obama on the South

"I think there's a reason why attitudes about my presidency among whites in Northern states are very different from whites in Southern states," Obama told Zakaria.
I assume there's some polling to back that up, but I notice that Northern states voted against his chosen successor in spite of his personal endorsement of her. States that have voted Democratic every election for decades went against him. Maybe race was the reason; certainly the demographics suggest it was a factor. But why beat up on the South when you lost Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania?

Stop parodying yourself

That was Morgan Freeberg's response to the "snowflake" microaggression meltdown, but it applies equally to this self-knowledge-free-zone WaPo article about how Big Brother is not the real problem; the real problem is the overwhelming noise of thousands of angry children:
This is Little Brother — millions of irrational people spreading lies, sowing doubt and fomenting violence. Thanks to Little Brother, the government — Trump and his incoming administration, in this case — doesn’t have to directly threaten the political opposition or spread propaganda on its own. Leaders only need to find indirect ways to validate supporters’ most vile emotions and make lying acceptable, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did recently when he said it was all right for Trump to spread falsehoods. Little Brother and his NRA-protected guns can take it from there.
So what is Little Brother?
Like the pack of wild children in “Lord of the Flies,” Little Brother is unsupervised, isolated from civilization and potentially murderous. And thanks to the Internet, the vicious, dog-eat-dog world of Little Brother is impossible to escape.
Little Brother screams so loud, no one can think. When human beings experience anger and fear — the dominant emotions of Little Brother and his Internet clickbait — their IQs drop. People cannot use their rational minds when thousands of angry children are shouting at them online. That’s Little Brother.
I guess we need some of that anti-dog-eat-dog legislation.

I'm melting

Stop calling me a snowflake you big meanie.

In related news, how much fun is it when your hyperliberal cousin posts her Facebook outrage over a November Congressional vote to steal $150 million from the Social Security fund by linking to an impassioned speech by an unnamed person identified as one of the 35 brave Senators who cast "nay" votes, all while expressing outrage that the media buried the story, hmmm, very suspicious . . . .

. . . And it turns out the vote was in November 2015, the outraged speaker was Mike Lee (R-Utah), the President signed the bill, and all 35 "nay" votes were from Republicans.

The fact that Lee credited Rand Paul with a principled opposition to the bill might have been a tip-off.

So What Happens Now?

Headline: "Bombshell Secret CIA Report Says Russia Aimed to Steal White House for Trump."

We've gone the full distance, now, from 'It's irresponsible and dangerous to try to discredit election results' to 'this rigged election was stolen by a conspiracy led by a hostile foreign power.'

The Electoral College hasn't voted yet. The President of the United States has ordered the results of the election to be reviewed in full, with the results of the review kept secret from the American people. That link, by the way, is to Russia Today -- a site the President's team would tell you was part of the very conspiracy he is citing. So the emphasis on his refusal to come clean with the American people is Russian propaganda designed to undermine our faith in the government.

It's also the truth.

I have no idea what's going to happen next.

Trump Airline

My wife ran across this.

Eric Hines

Nailed it

They might be describing me personally.  Lately I've been loving his cabinet picks, but before the election I didn't dare hope for so much in that area, or any other.  Nevertheless, at my nadir of enthusiasm for the Republican candidate, I loved that for once we had a guy who didn't whimper in the face of a partisan and close-minded press:
The public took the media's vitriol and hate directed at Trump as the highest recommendations he could possibly get. That's why the media, the pundits, the celebrities and even the polls were all in mass denial about Trump's chances until the very night of the election.
"For many Republicans who weren't enthusiastic Trump supporters but wanted something to like about him, his refusal to give the media a free pass on their combative bias was a big thing," wrote Stephen Kruiser at the PJMedia website. That, by the way, is why Trump spent so much less than Hillary Clinton on his campaign. The media covered him heavy and hard, thinking it would take him down. The over-the-top, saturation coverage did just the opposite.

Sports humor, from me, yet

I'm still so happy about the EPA pick I could bust.  Today is a lighter-hearted choice, the Ambassador to the Court of St. James.  Jim Geraghty muses that Woody Johnson may change the names of the N.Y. Jets to the "Concordes," but otherwise hopes that this new appointment will lead to benign neglect on the home front:
Keep in mind, under Woody Johnson, it is entirely possible that the U.S. Embassy in London will sign a lot of really expensive free-agent diplomatic staff who will perform well for a year and then decline in production rapidly.

Dontcha just hate those white guys

This sour and humorless GQ piece can't hide the fascinating quality of an eccentric group's spoofy effort to create a non-PC libertarian utopia on the Croatian border.  When the journalist can't think of any cogent criticism, she drips with contempt over the white-male aspect and whines about the boredom and discomfort of her trip.  Throwing in a bit of Trump snark is obligatory, of course.

This attempt to create a modern Galt's Gulch doubtless is pretty nuts; its flaky youngsters, like residents of George Washington University and Burning Man East in South Dakota, will have a lot to learn about defensive borders for their little piece of paradise.  Unlike the author, though, I find the underlying impulse refreshing.

Who Knows Who John Glenn Is?

Language warning: this Gunny talks like a Marine.

Greatest Success

Well, that's not how he put it, but it's the biggest single thing we've accomplished during his governance.
If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws.
You're too modest, sir. You've seen us flourish, under your leadership. Respect for the Second Amendment has come to be taken seriously by the Supreme Court, during your tenure, and you've helped to ensure a similar court will endure for decades to come. We're on the cusp of seeing gun permits treated like, dare I say it, marriage licenses. All 50 states will now respect one issued by any of the 50 states.

And, of course, we've seen record levels of gun purchases during your tenure as well. You're passing on to the future an America that is not only more respectful of the civil right to keep and bear arms, but far better armed as well.

To think that's happened maugre your head, as Malory would put it. And you the President, and everything.

Damn Few, and They're All Dead

John Glenn is now among the heroes. He was a man.

This Is What They Think Trump's Going To Do

...and in fairness, it is something that was done even here in America. It was done by a Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt, otherwise considered the greatest president of the modern age by the same people afraid that we'll start doing this sometime next month.

We Should Be Protected from Outsiders

I lost control of my laughter at about 45 seconds in.

OMG there really is voter fraud you guys!

Not that I don't think it's hilarious that half of Detroit ballots (which went 95% for Clinton) can't be recounted under Michigan law, because the votes sent to the Secretary of State don't match the number of voters ostensibly signed into the poll books on election day, but I really can't understand how that law is supposed to work.  It seems to freeze in place whatever overcounted vote was produced by the Detroit machine.  How would anyone ever succeed in throwing out the votes that exceed the number legitimately signed into the poll books?

In many years of working the polls and serving as an election judge, I can remember exactly one instance in which my cast-ballot total differed from the poll-book total by exactly one vote.  People, it is just not that hard when you're making an effort to be honest.

Do These People Not Realize They're Leaving the White House in about a Month?

Why would they want to expand this power?
Josh, this administration has made a huge priority out of responding to online threats from jihadists. You have a whole set of people at the State Department; you have them at the Pentagon; you’ve got people who have gone after those who posted these messages and killed them in the Middle East.... You had an entire set of businesses up here on Connecticut Avenue for months getting direct death threats, and they said that nothing was done about them. Is it only a priority if these are jihadi threats? And is it not a priority for this administration if businesses and normal people are getting death threats and being terrorized for months with no action on the part of this administration? Help me understand the difference there.
Union leaders, too, I guess. Shall we assassinate the people making those death threats, like we do jihadis in Yemen?

Or is the point just to bend the whole Federal government toward going after the fringe political enemies of the administration's allies? That seems like a power that couldn't possibly be abused in, say, a month and a half. If you really think Trump is running a fascist movement, why would you be asking the administration to exert new power? Shouldn't you be arguing for it to accept binding handcuffs, which could only be a minor inconvenience in your last month or so, but that might hamper the incoming administration?

I Want This Man's Job

Pearl Harbor Day

Seventy-five years ago, Japan lost itself a war.

Tyranny or Raucous Debate?

Donald Trump is at it again. A left-leaning friend contacted me earlier tonight to ask me to call my Senators to get them to stand up against Trump's "threatening" of an American citizen. This ended up in an unsatisfying discussion of whether or not what he said constituted a threat, or protected free speech. Here's what he wrote:
Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!... If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
I don't see any "threat" here, nor even an "attack on a private citizen." To me, this looks like criticism of the job performance of a union leader and his leadership of his union. Should a President engage in debate with union leadership on the best way to keep American jobs? Well, yes, I would have to say. It would be great if we could have a committed public debate on that topic.

I would think most union leaders, even at the cost of being crosswise with so powerful a person as a President Elect, would be delighted at the chance to have that discussion. When the President Elect, or even the President, deigns to 'punch down,' it has the effect of elevating you to his platform. I'd take that all day if I could get it. But even leaving that aside, it would be great if we could just get our various political factions arguing about how to protect American jobs. That itself would be a great change for the better.

The alternative position comes from the claim, which could certainly be true, that the union leader who criticized Trump is getting death threats in the wake of this counter-criticism. On this view, Trump supporters are a kind of informal brownshirts who only wait for a hint from their leader to deploy violence against those who dare speak against that leader.

Well, there has certainly been violence. It hasn't been one-sided, though. Trump has at times seem to encourage it, which is blameworthy: but not in a while, and not this time.

Probably the leadership of both sides should consider the effect of their words, but not at the cost of ending even a raucous debate on these issues. The President is not a king, but primus inter pares. He has all the rights of free speech of any other citizen, even if he has the responsibility of remembering that more people are listening to him (and, even, that not all of those people are completely together).

Still, just as I would oppose a Lèse-majesté law that would protect a President from criticism, I would oppose a standard that would prevent the President from arguing with other citizens as an equal. He is an equal. Surely the most likely good to come from the Trump presidency is the reminder that the President is not our better.

I'll be happy to stand up for the ideal that Presidents should not wield police authority to suppress dissent, nor brownshirts either. But I don't think the President should be above criticism, nor above debating ordinary citizens as an equal. Not only does it benefit the union leadership to be drawn into a direct debate with a President, it benefits all of us not to think of the President as above such a debate. He's just a guy, no better than any of you. Maybe not as good as many of you! But he's an American, so he is in a sense our equal: and he'll be the President, so in a sense he'll be the first among equals. And that's all.

They won't like this, either

Here is a strangely sanguine article from American Thinker about microwave technology that could improve even on fracking production from shale formations.  The author believes even environmentalists will like it, because it uses less water than fracking.  I predict it won't be more than a few weeks before we start seeing articles complaining that microwaves trapped in the rock will produce earthquakes, autism, heteronormative bathrooms, and income inequality in affected counties.

Another Marine General to Head Homeland Security

John F. Kelly is the man who, asked by a reporter if he would consider the possibility that his forces would be defeated in Iraq, said: "Hell these are Marines. Men like them held Guadalcanal and took Iwo Jima. Baghdad ain't shit."

Report: Trump Establishes 61-Member Adviser Group on 2nd Amendment

It will be headed by the CEO of SilencerCo.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Time magazine's covers featuring Donald Trump:

Codevilla on PC

We've knocked a hole in it, for the moment, but it's still a strong thing in many parts of America. You might want to read Dr. Codevilla's history of a poisonous concept.

The Feast of St. Nicholas

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas:

Saint Nicholas (Greek: Ἅγιος Νικόλαος, Hágios Nikólaos, Latin: Sanctus Nicolaus); (15 March 270 – 6 December 343), also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker (Νικόλαος ὁ Θαυματουργός, Nikólaos ho Thaumaturgós). His reputation evolved among the faithful, as was common for early Christian saints, and his legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus through Sinterklaas.

The historical Saint Nicholas is commemorated and revered among Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. In addition, some Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other Reformed churches have been named in honor of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.

The historical Saint Nicholas, as known from strict history: He was born at Patara, Lycia in Asia Minor (now Turkey). In his youth he made a pilgrimage to Egypt and the Palestine area. Shortly after his return he became Bishop of Myra and was later cast into prison during the persecution of Diocletian. He was released after the accession of Constantine and was present at the Council of Nicaea. In 1087, Italian merchants stole his body from Myra, bringing it to Bari in Italy.

Were they repentant thieves, I wonder?

In any case, according to the venerable and often-amusing volume, Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour, appropriate beverages for the feast include:

  • The traditional Bisschopswijn, a spiced wine
  • Anything with rum (patron saint of sailors, you know), but the book recommends a rum toddy
  • A "St. Nicholas's Helper" of hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps
  • A Sankt Nikolai Abbey Tripel beer
  • A Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil wine

The traditional toast: "To the real Santa Claus, scourge of heretics and champion of the poor: May he help us defend the faith and assist the needy."

"Scourge of heretics"?

In 325, he was one of many bishops to answer the request of Constantine and appear at the First Council of Nicaea; the 151st attendee was listed as "Nicholas of Myra of Lycia". There, Nicholas was a staunch anti-Arian, defender of the Orthodox Christian position, and one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. Tradition has it that he became so angry with the heretic Arius during the Council that he struck him in the face.

Photo: Erlend Bjørtvedt (CC-BY-SA)

"Shredding on a Shotgun Guitar"

You've heard of a cigar box guitar, but how about a shotgun guitar?

It's fully functional, and the guy is just as good at the one skill as the other. Admirable.

Just for fun, here's the cigar box guitar again too.


Speaking of people whose service earned them a space for having unpopular opinions, I came across this 2008 bit of mine citing the Rev. Mr. Wright. It was a rumination on what was, at that time, an open question about whether Obama was really more of a Chicago-way liberal, or more of a New Republic liberal.

At this juncture I would have to say that he proved to be a TNR liberal after all, but with numerous Chicago-way connections. We can see the evidence of the corruption and power worship in the IRS scandal, the misuse of the Department of Justice to protect friends and allies from investigations and prosecutions, and the abuse of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to try to force a punitive form of 'social justice' on American campuses. His rise empowered those people, even if he was not fully one of them.

We can see the TNR aspect in the rest of it. The world is burning as he leaves office, and it is burning because of American weakness. Fuel for these fires came from his desire to fight a 'clean hands' war with drones and surgical strikes, his flight from Iraq, his refusal to stand up to his own red line in Syria, and his rush to give Iran everything it could ask in order to get any kind of a treaty. The Chinese have found him easy to push, so much so that America stands in some peril of watching the Philippines defect to their sphere. Russia is feeling expansive. All of this comes from the fact of weak hands.

The Democrats Need to Square Up on "Islamophobia"

A phobia is an irrational fear. In the wake of regular worldwide terrorist attacks in the name of numerous interpretations of Islam, it's hard to see how concerns about Islam and political power are any sort of "phobia." But let's accept for a moment that it can be possible to be unfairly concerned about a particular Muslim, even so.

That still leaves two questions:

1) At what point does a concern become valid? Vox defends Ellison against charges arising from his association with worse characters, especially Louis Farrakhan. What we have learned about radicalization indicates that much less close contact than this is necessary for it, though. Perhaps it's not fair to hold Ellison to blame for his associations, but there has to be a point at which it would be fair. At what point would it become fair? That's a question I'd like to have answered.

2) If we're to be excessively careful not to criticize individual Muslims for associations with others who may be more radical than they, why doesn't this point apply -- say -- to Hindus? Consider Tulsi Gabbard. Isn't she being treated exactly the same way, by the left, that they're concerned that Ellison is being treated by the right?

What's the difference? Gabbard is a Hindu, and she knows lots of other Hindus (and Indian Americans) who have inherited or developed concerns about Islam and/or Muslims. Ellison is a Muslim, and he knows lots of other Muslims (and African Americans) who have inherited or developed concerns about Judaism and/or Jews. These seem like parallel cases to me. So why promote Ellison to the leadership of the DNC, and run down Gabbard?

I suppose you could reverse the polarity on that question, and ask me why I'm more inclined to defend Gabbard. But I know why: because she's an Iraq War veteran. She's earned a space for considering her unpopular opinions, whatever they are. I don't have to agree with her every time to know we're on the same side when it counts. Ellison offers no such evidence of service that would counteract his associations.

A Skeptic on Petraeus

I will always have a place in my heart for David Petraeus, who commanded the Surge and won back a chance for Iraq to succeed. However, while I can and do fault President Obama for his squandering of that chance, I don't fault him for his handling of the end of Petraeus' career. Both in his handling of classified information, and in his handling of his relationship with his wife, he showed himself to have fallen away from the standards and virtues that properly belong to those entrusted with the lives of Americans.

Now Christine Brim comes to suggest that he is really a Clintonite Democrat as well. Perhaps -- or perhaps he is just one of those generals, of whom there are many, for whom doing what the politicians want becomes a guiding star. If he looks like a Clintonite, it's only because he expected them to win and aligned himself accordingly.

Still, I'm afraid that it is best for David Petraeus to remain in retirement. With respect for the good that he did, this is not the hour to elevate someone to high position with his track record on handling classified information. That was a valid and good reason to avoid elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency, and it is just as good a reason not to make Petraeus a Secretary of State. That he also may have participate in other Clintonite scandals, such as the provision of false information on Benghazi, only underlines what is already adequately determined by that fact.

How Real is this Taiwan Thing?

According to a report by the nonpartisan (and quite respected) Congressional Research Service, China doesn't have the logistical chops to pull off an invasion.

They could do something unexpected, like pressing a bunch of fishing ships into service. But that has its limitations, and even once you move the army, you've got to keep it supplied.

John Stewart: You know, a Lot of First Responders Voted for Trump

“The same people that voted for Trump ran into burning buildings and saved whoever.. no matter what color they were, no matter what religion and they would do it again tomorrow.... So, if you want to sit and tell me that those people are giving tacit approval to an exploitative system ― I say, 'OK, and would you put your life on the line for people who aren’t like you? Because they did.

This Complies With the 4th Amendment How?

The Economist reports on a violation of the Constitution by the Federal government. Kudos to the Congressional committee for bringing it to light. Now let's see what they do with it.

Also, I note that this part seems to fit a pattern: "We have no idea as to the extent of the problem because the DEA did not keep records" of the program. Now why would a bureaucracy choose not to keep records of a program, if only to audit it and see how successful it was?

The Counterfeit State Department

One has to wonder how good American intelligence in Africa could possibly be.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of State announced it had shut down a fake embassy in Ghana this summer with the help of local authorities... The criminals weren’t just in it for the adrenaline rush of processing consular paperwork, though. It was a lucrative enterprise that charged unknowing marks about $6,000 each for “fraudulently obtained, legitimate U.S. visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents,” and other services, the State Department said.

It operated for about a decade in part because local authorities were paid to “look the other way,” the State Department said.... The fake embassy had an American flag flying out front and a photo of President Barack Obama and embassy signs inside. The criminal ring running the scam even advertised its services in neighboring Togo and Ivory Coast.
Did we really not know about this? None of our open-source intelligence people noticed the advertised access to American consular documents from a location that wasn't legitimate, not for ten years?

Or was the Obama administration happy to accept the additional semi-documented migrants? Are they just shutting this down now so that the Trump people won't look into it and realize they were letting it roll?

Neither possibility is encouraging.

The Importance of the Constitution

Would-be Presidential spoiler Evan McMullin says Donald Trump doesn't know enough about the Constitution to refer to it. That may well be true, of course.

And I wouldn't argue against any of this.
We must never forget that we are born equal, with basic, natural rights, including those of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are inherent in us because we are humans, not because they are granted by government. Government, indeed, exists primarily to protect those natural rights; the only legitimate power it has is that which we grant to it.

We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy.
I've said little else in this space for more than a decade, but clearly that hasn't moved mountains.

Even A Great Surgeon Has Bad Days

Robert Liston was one of the greats of the pre-anesthesia age. In those days, surgery was best performed fast, as that minimized pain and made it more likely that patients would survive the procedure. But...
The assistants tried hard to hold [a thrashing patient] but, he was too strong. In that chaos, Liston started to move so fast that he accidently cut his assistant’s fingers off and also slashed a spectator’s coat.

The spectator thought that he was hurt and died of terror on the spot. The patient and the assistant died a few days later from infections of their wounds.

This is the only surgery in known history with a 300 percent mortality rate.

Bluegreen Jobs

The New Republic is trying to figure out how to make environmentalism cool with the white working class.
Environmentalists must fight alongside unions for full employment in a green economy that uses union labor. American steel produced by United Steelworkers members must be used to make wind turbines erected by Laborers members. Unfortunately, most green energy capitalists hold anti-union positions, but environmentalists have to demand a change.
It's interesting how Blue Model this vision is, to use W. R. Mead's term.

The uncool kids

The Sultan of Knish advises Republicans to quit trying to make the cultural powers-that-be approve of them:
The GOP is not the cool party. It’s never going to be. It’s the party of the people who have been shut out, stepped on and kicked around by the cool people. Trump understood that. The GOP didn’t.
The GOP’s urban elites would like to create an imaginary cool party that would be just like the Democrats, but with fiscally conservative principles. That party can’t and won’t exist.

Notice How Ordinary This Is

Andy McCarthy is one of those hard-core right-wingers who regularly raises concerns about Islam's compatibility with Western values. So, let's hear him out on the question of whether or not President Trump needs a waiver from Congress to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as SECDEF.
It is true that the Constitution assigns the president the sole power to nominate and appoint officers of the United States. It is also true that the Senate’s power of advice-and-consent is the principal constitutional check on the president’s appointment power. (U.S. Const., art. II, sec. 2, cl. 2.) It does not necessarily follow, however, that Congress may not impose qualifications that any nominee must meet when the office in question has been created by Congress.

What are now the Department of Defense and the position of Secretary of Defense are creatures of statute. The 1940s-era statute to which Shannen refers as the source of the limitation on the president’s appointment power is the National Security Act of 1947. It is section 202 of that act that establishes the Secretary of Defense – the office, the qualifications to serve in it, and the attendant duties.
That doesn't sound like he's looking for a totalitarian leader to make him safe by imposing a fascist worldview and brooking no opposition. It sounds like he's thinking seriously about the constitutional separation of powers, and a due and proper role for Congress as well as the Executive.

Such are the terrifying creatures with which the Left now has to reckon.

And These Are Amusing As Well

SNL's Target Ad Skit

A bit old, but still relevant, apparently, sadly.


I wonder how much blue Play-doh has been destroyed since ...

Uncomfortable Arguments

A university professor in Canada tries to show his students what they do not want to see:
I got interested in ideology, in a large part, because I got interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, and equivalent occurrences in other places in the world. Mostly I concentrated on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in what led people to commit atrocities in service of their belief.... One of the things that I’m trying to convince my students of is that if they had been in Germany in the 1930s, they would have been Nazis. Everyone thinks “Not me,” and that’s not right. It was mostly ordinary people who committed the atrocities that characterized Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Well, but people learn from history, right? Does he have any good examples of a similar ideology that is crushing freedom and that his students are rushing to embrace?

Yes, he does.
The university has told me that that every time I insist that I won’t use those [gender neutral] pronouns [like 'xe' and 'xir'], the probability that I’ll be teaching in January decreases.... My opponents say ‘you’re just scare-mongering. We don’t really have that much power.’ Then why change the criminal code? Why put the hate speech amendments in there? The final word in law is incarceration.

There is no question about this. When I made the video on September 27th, and I said, ‘probably making this video itself is illegal’. Not only that, the university is as responsible as I am for making it, because that’s in the human rights code. The university read the damned policies and had their lawyers scour it, and concluded exactly what I concluded. That’s why they sent me two warning letters.
No free speech, no free expression, no free association, and no earning a living if you deviate from the imposed speech codes. Your employer is on the hook for you, so they can't afford to employ you if you won't comply.

This is where they were trying to go here, too. McArdle was just talking about that.
“Sure, the government won’t actually shut your church down. But the left will use its positions of institutional power to try to hound anyone who attends that church from public life. You can believe whatever you want -- but if we catch you, or if we even catch you in proximity to people who believe it, we will threaten your livelihood.”

I’ve heard from a number of evangelicals who, despite their reservations about the man, ended up voting for Donald Trump because they fear that the left is out to build a world where it will not be possible to hold any prominent job while holding onto their church’s beliefs about sexuality. Discussions I’ve had in recent days with nice, well-meaning progressives suggest that this is not a paranoid fantasy.
Well, just look north.

Of Course California Should Secede

Politics are about shared values as much as they're about anything else. As the author points out, California is completely out of step with the country, and provided Hillary Clinton with 100% of her margin of victory in the popular vote.

Of course, if we could agree to abide by the 10th Amendment there'd be no reason California should have to leave. They could live by their own values in perfect accord with their nearby neighbors' living in accordance with more traditional values.

Yet in the wake of Trump's election, I have seen no signs at all of any softening of the idea that the Federal Government Should Rule All. I have seen calls to abolish the electoral college, calls that are completely removed from the reality that Democrats now control none of the capacities that would enable them to amend the Constitution. I have seen calls to abolish the states, even though state governments like California's (and there are less than a handful of such states) provide Democrats with their only practical shelter against whatever Trump's Federal government may do.

If I were inclined to view political disagreements in medical terms, I would think this pathological. This insistence on imposing one-size-fits-all solutions on a big and diverse nation is what lost them all of those state governments. It's a major contributing factor to what lost them this Presidential election. It's also lost them a bunch of House and Senate seats. Yet they continue to double down on the strategy, determined to knock down all remaining laws between them and a fully centralized power. They do this without apparently realizing that these are load-bearing walls, and the power will be centralized like a roof being brought down on their heads.

So yes, by all means, let them go. I will gladly support any Constitutional convention or amendment aimed at freeing California to pursue its own destiny. We would all be happier, and our politics would be healthier, if we could make this happen.

How's that going, Duncan?

Apparently we're not making this up:  a city attorney in Philadelphia, clad in a blazer and ascot and carrying a glass of wine, tagged a fancy grocery store with the message "F**K TRUMP."  I mean, really, he doesn't seem to be a paid plant or anything, and it's not part of a Jimmy Kimmel video or an SNL skit.

Elie Mystal, who writes the almost equally absurd and pathetic blog "Above the Law," also is skating right out at the edge, in a cri de coeur that's located almost entirely in self-loathing and -mockery territory, without quite achieving self-awareness:
When Duncan Lloyd vandalizes your city, it’s part of his larger campaign of finding a way to crawl out from under his covers in the morning. . . . He just wants to be able to look his cats in the eye without feeling ineffectual and ashamed. “I made a statement today, Odysseus and Penelope. I’m not going to let this be normalized.”
I know, you think I lifted that from an alt-right site engaging in a scathing satire.  I really didn't.

I have to assume that Progressive America has more effective minions than this, perhaps flying under the radar for now, but sometimes you truly have to wonder.