2018-08-20

John Bolton in Israel.

Arutz Sheva: National Security Adviser John Bolton arrives in Israel for first official visit.
Bolton assumed office on April 9, after US President Donald Trump fired his predecessor, H.R. McMaster.

Bolton is scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday morning.

Following his visit to Israel, Bolton is expected to visit Ukraine and Geneva, where he will meet
with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev.

Times of Israel: Talks expected to focus on Iran.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton was set to arrive in Israel on Sunday for two days of talks expected to heavily focus on Iran and its military presence in Syria.

Bolton will be hosted for dinner Sunday evening by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his official residence, Netanyahu’s office said Saturday, and will meet with the premier again on Monday morning for further discussions.

VOA: Iran nuclear program at top of list.
Iran's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are at "the top of the list," U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday after arriving in Israel, where he plans to holds talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two held a working dinner Sunday and will continue their talks Monday.

2018-07-31

WalkAway

My post in the #WalkAway campaign.

I grew up in Connecticut, in a liberal home; but the word meant something different then. My parents were old-school liberals - Kennedy Democrats. Mom in particular had no use for Communism, and admired Soviet dissidents like Solzhenitsyn. (Another Soviet dissident of the day - a Jewish activist - would later play an important role in my own thinking.) Our family didn't follow an organized religion, although we were nominally Unitarians.

We were book-lovers and intellectuals, and Mom and Dad instilled a love of learning in my sister and me. But we were also a very troubled family. As a kid I had a love of science and a nerdy bent. (This was in the 1970s, before the computer revolution made geekiness cool. In those days, "nerd" was definitely not a compliment.) I didn't want to spend the rest of my life hiding in books, like in the Simon and Garfunkel song "I Am a Rock."

I joined the military after high school and served 10 years active duty in two branches - the Air Force and the Marines. It was a great challenge and an opportunity to grow as a person. Surrounded by all different kinds of people from very different backgrounds, I learned more than I ever would have learned in a classroom.

I was still independent and unconventional in my thinking, though, including my politics. I spent about seven years as an active member of the Green Party in California and Oregon (where it's known as the Pacific Green Party for historical reasons). This was in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I liked the camaraderie and the sense of engagement. Even then, though, I probably would have identified my politics as "classical liberal" (rather than "progressive" or "leftist") - which put me firmly to the right-of-center among my fellow Greens!

As a young adult I had started to gravitate toward religion, first learning Hebrew (so as to understand the Bible better) and eventually attending synagogue services on a regular basis. The party chapter I belonged to was not anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic as far as I could tell, but I realized with growing unease that this could not be said of many of our comrades on the Left. I also noticed a strange affinity for radical Islam in some corners. The local "progressive" newspaper (oh, how I wish I'd saved that copy) ran a glowing article on the role of Islam in western Asia. That issue was published in the summer of 2001.

The September 11 attacks forced me to re-think a lot of things, but it wasn't until 2003, I think, that I officially left the Greens and joined the Democratic Party. The primaries were underway, and one of the early Democratic hopefuls was an Orthodox Jewish Senator from my home state, who struck me as a decent man and a principled liberal of the old style. I got to hear him speak once at my synagogue.

Senator Joe Lieberman dropped out of the primary on February 3, 2004, and that was my #WalkAway moment. It was clear that the Democratic Party and I were headed in different directions. I changed my registration to Republican the next day.

In the following months I began following Republican politics and learning more about conservatism. I avidly followed the freewheeling debates in National Review Online's 'The Corner'. I discovered that conservatism had nothing in common with the caricatured image presented in the news media and in TV shows like 'All in the Family'. I came to understand the importance of small government, individual liberty, and free markets. I also started to understand the role of social institutions - churches, fraternities, and even families - in a healthy, functioning Republic. And I also started to see the media bias more and more clearly.

Fast forward through the Obama years (please!) and to the recent elections. I was a Ted Cruz guy in the primaries, and did not know what to make of this Donald Trump character. I thought his supporters seemed like zealots, and a little bit unhinged. I followed the debates in the news, on the blogs, on YouTube and Facebook. And I noticed something strange: as crazy as the pro-Trump people sometimes sounded, the anti-Trump people were worse. Even among supposed Republicans and conservatives.

So I voted for Trump in the general election, not knowing what to expect, but knowing for darn sure I wasn't going to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Obama years had convinced me that the people at the helm of the Democratic Party were not simply misguided or over-zealous reformers - they were anti-American. The deaths at Benghazi, and the untimely demise of numerous persons inconvenient to the Clintons, convinced me that something very dark and sinister was afoot.

When I started listening to what Trump was actually saying - instead of what the media were telling me he was saying - I started to like what I was hearing. Grow the economy, fight illegal immigration, move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem - sounds great! But would a President Trump actually do any of those things?

Now we are getting our answer. In retrospect I realize that my fellow Republican voters called it right.

Our Nation - our Republic - is something unique and precious in the world. We are blessed with freedoms few other nations enjoy (even the so-called "democratic" nations of Europe), and with a rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. But we live in a difficult world, where totalitarian forces would like to see us defeated. Our security and our liberty depend on our strength as a nation.

It's good to be independent in your thinking, but it's also good to understand where other folks are coming from, and to understand the importance of traditions and of institutions. We need freedom, but we also need purpose. ("Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life." - Viktor Frankl, 'Man's Search for Meaning') We need to be individuals, but we draw strength from a larger identity. ("The enemy's will is strong because his identity is strong. And we must match his strength of purpose with strong identities of our own." - Natan Sharansky, 'Defending Identity')

The ancient Israelites walked away from slavery in Egypt, not knowing where they were headed. They wandered in the wilderness for weeks before receiving the Torah that gave their lives meaning, and years more before settling in the homeland where they would build a national identity.

The search for meaning and identity is the work of a lifetime - but the first step is to #WalkAway.

.

2018-06-04

Financial Times: Portland near bottom in fiscal health index.

KATU:
PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland is currently about $3.4 billion in debt and ranks near the bottom of a national "fiscal health index."

The Fiscal Times evaluated the finances of 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000 and ranked Portland No. 103 last year.

Officials say Portland's debt has risen by more than 20 percent over the past 10 years from $2.82 billion in 2008.

The city currently pays more than $500 million annually to service its debt, which includes both principal and interest. The city's total budget this year is $5.1 billion. ...
Go to the KATU link for a breakout and analysis of the debt from city debt manager Eric Johansen.

China / New Zealand: Concern over PRC influence in NZ.

Business Insider:
A former CIA analyst has raised the prospect of kicking New Zealand out of an international intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US.

Five Eyes is the name of the intelligence alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that has routinely shared sensitive intelligence since 1955. But failure to respond to interference attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should endanger New Zealand's membership, Peter Mattis, a former CIA China expert testified to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission last month.

"In New Zealand, both the last prime minister, Bill English, and Jacinda Ardern, have denied that there's a problem at all," Mattis, now a fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, said. ...

Seth Frantzman: Europe's overdue immigration reform.

Seth Frantzman at Jerusalem Post:
It’s not by chance that immigration became the No. 1 issue in all these countries. It is because almost every single government across the continent thought that bourgeois post-Cold War sensibilities and neoliberalism could solve everything. They labeled everyone discussing immigration, when such discussions were much smaller, as crackpots, extreme rightists. This was mostly because the old parties of Europe, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, the Liberals and Conservatives, had a convivencia of power-swapping. Years of peace changed the political landscape, and it was expected that borders would be reduced and a common currency would lead to common values. The nation-state was an anachronism, said intellectuals like Tony Judt. Growing inequality, unemployment, and the social distance between leaders and governed crept in quietly, without major media noticing it.

The refugee crises of 2015 was emblematic of what had gone on for years. I went to Eastern Europe to cover the crisis. I watched as police in Greece lined up migrants and sent them into Macedonia across an undocumented border crossing. No security checks, no fingerprints, no IDs. Just “go across.” ...

Jonathan Spyer: Iran's strategic response.

Jonathan Spyer:
Iran can be expected to respond with a counter-strategy of its own, designed to stymy and frustrate western and allied efforts. What form will this Iranian response take? What assets does Iran possess in the furtherance of this goal?

First of all, it is worth noting what Iran does not have: Teheran is deficient in conventional military power, and as such is especially vulnerable when challenged in this arena. The Iranians have neglected conventional military spending, in favor of emphasis on their missile program, and their expertise in the irregular warfare methods of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force. ...

California: New water rationing laws.

The Organic Prepper:
Governor Jerry Brown is retiring but not before he passes a few draconian laws as parting gifts for California. Two bills were signed into law on Thursday of last week to “help California be better prepared for future droughts and the effects of climate change.”

The mandatory water conservation standards will be permanent, according to their wording, and not just for use in times of crisis. To make a long story short, now that these bills are law, it’s illegal to take a shower and do a load of laundry in the same day because you’ll exceed your “ration.” ...
About Assembly Bill 1668:
The bill, until January 1, 2025, would establish 55 gallons per capita daily as the standard for indoor residential water use, beginning January 1, 2025, would establish the greater of 52.5 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use, and beginning January 1, 2030, would establish the greater of 50 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use. The bill would impose civil liability for a violation of an order or regulation issued pursuant to these provisions, as specified.
Sacramento Bee:
Assembly Bill 1668 by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, and Senate Bill 606 from state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, give water districts more flexibility than the strict cuts mandated under Brown’s emergency drought order and will eventually allow state regulators to assess thousands of dollars in fines against jurisdictions that do not meet the goals. ...

2018-06-03

The "decent people".

They are a class of people who believed they could discern a "decent" person by the individual's decorum and speech. Their whole world-view is based on this shallow, superficial, and trivial understanding of human nature. In reality, decent and honorable people may be plain-spoken and even at times crude. But the manners brigade will die before they'll admit they were wrong about that.

Gender and category errors.

The anti-trans social conservatives understand correctly that gender has both an external component (our reproductive organs) and an internal component (our psychological makeup), which are aligned or matched-up in a certain way in most people. What they are unable or unwilling to see is that exceptional cases may exist where the matching is different from most people. (Were this not the case, it would be the only phenomenon in all of nature that hasn't got a single exception or deviation.) They imagine that transgender people are "trying to destroy society".

Anti-trans feminists (or TERFs) make the opposite error, and deny any natural correlation between reproductive sex and innate gender identity. For them, all gender identity is "socially constructed" and the product of patriarchal stereotypes. From there, it is a short step to declaring all generalizations about men and women inherently oppressive and evil.

Of the two errors, the latter is more useful to socialists and radical leftists (who really ARE trying to destroy society) because it attacks the process of organizing our experience on the most fundamental level - it attacks reasoning itself. A botany book contains idealized diagrams of flowers, and an anatomy book contains idealized diagrams of people; no one imagines that these diagrams represent every case, or even exactly represent a single example, but they are useful tools for learning the overall properties of the thing under consideration.

It is not so difficult to say, "This is the general case, but execptions also exist. Each case is unique, and yet certain things are true of the overall population." And yet this is exactly what political correctness aims to do, with the intended and demonstrated result that the whole educational process grinds to a halt. And this is precisely what we've seen in ecucation for the past 50 years or more.

2018-05-21

Linkage: 2018-05-21 Monday.

The Standard: How conservatives can win the youth.
Ben Shapiro.
Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.

Religious freedom is good because freedom of association is good and no one has the right to tell you how to live your life so long as you’re not forcibly imposing your views on anyone else. Governmental discrimination against religious institutions is evil because it is none of the government’s business how you choose to worship, how you choose to operate your business, and how you choose to raise your child.

Freedom of speech is good because you have value as an individual human being with a unique point of view; you’re not reducible to your skin color, your ethnicity, or your income. Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.

Small government is good because it allows you to pursue your goals without someone else telling you what to do, and if we can’t agree to leave each other alone, you’ll have to fear my tyranny as much as I fear yours. Big government is evil because it insists that a cadre of bureaucrats knows more about how to run your life than you do.

These are winning arguments. And young Americans are open to them.
Kristen Soltis Anderson.
Conservatives should have something to say to young people about the free markets that deliver so much of what gives them this material quality of life, and why ideas like socialism that failed dramatically in the past (often long before they were born) remain bankrupt today.

Young Americans are also increasingly experiencing the effects of a loneliness epidemic spawned in part by the fact that genuine community and human connection have too often been replaced—inadequately—by screen time and social media. It is true that social conservatism, which is often unfairly portrayed by the media as a basket of retrograde views on gender and sexuality, remains a nonstarter with young people, but the idea that families and communities need strengthening, that they are not replaceable by the state, and that they are essential to a fulfilled life is a message that conservatives should be shouting from the rooftops.

Robert Spencer: Poisoned in Iceland a year ago, still no justice.

FrontPage. 'Just over a year ago, a young Icelandic Leftist poisoned me in Reykjavik after I gave a lecture on the jihad threat. In the hospital thereafter, a Leftist doctor neglected to perform basic tests on me, such that I could have easily died from the poisoning. A year later, no one has been arrested, and Iceland’s medical ethics board has declined to discipline the doctor. The whole episode illustrates what those who are known to dissent from the Leftist agenda can expect from Leftist authorities: institutionalized indifference and injustice. ...'

Netanyahu's moment: observations from friends and the NYT.
Caroline Glick.
From moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, to walking away from the nuclear deal which guaranteed Iran’s eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons and financed its regional aggression and terrorism sponsorship, to unconditionally supporting Israel’s military operations against Iranian positions in Syria, Trump has demonstrated that he is the most pro-Israel president in US history. No other president comes close.

The difference between Trump and his predecessors is that Trump accepts Israel on its own terms. ...
Anshel Pfeffer at NYT.
Mr. Netanyahu is the toast of the new wave of right-wing, populist and autocrat-like (if not outright autocratic) leaders. They see in him a kindred spirit, even a mentor. He is the leader of a small country who has taken on American presidents and outlasted them. He has successfully defied the Western liberal human rights agenda, focusing instead on trade and security. Israel’s success as a regional economic and military power is proof in their eyes that the illiberal approach can prevail.

He has spent more time than any of them on the geopolitical stage, winning election after election. In many ways, Mr. Netanyahu is the precursor to this new age of “strongmen” who have come to power in different parts of the world. It is the age of Bibi. ...
USA / Iran: White House considering regime change options. Washington Free Beacon: 'The Trump administration is examining a new plan to help Iranians fighting the hardline regime in Iran following America's exit from the landmark nuclear deal and reimposition of harsh economic sanctions that could topple a regime already beset by protests and a crashing economy, according to a copy of the plan obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.'

Blaire White: Do conservatives hate trans people?
Blaire White: 'Small and limited government, strong borders, being conservative fiscally, I'm a constitutionalist, I'm a nationalist at heart. All of those beliefs, technically, in today's time, definitely fall into the conservative category. ... I'm not comfortable saying that conservatives hate trans people hate trans people, because my experience has been mixed. ... I think that there is this new wave of conservatives, especially younger ones, who are much more concerned with principles and policy, rather than X-ing out this group. ... I don't think that, if it were true that conservatives hated trans people, that I'd be sitting here on YouTube with the amount of success I've had.'

2018-04-27

Koreas: Summit marks peace talks.

Reuters: Kim, Moon meet.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in embraced after pledging on Friday to work for the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” punctuating a day of smiles and handshakes at the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.

The two Koreas announced they would work with the United States and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean war and seek an agreement to establish “permanent” and “solid” peace in its place.

The declaration included promises to pursue phased military arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone, and seek multilateral talks with other countries including the United States. ...

CNN: South Korea credits Trump for opening door to talks with North.
(CNN)South Korea's foreign minister has said she believes President Donald Trump is largely responsible for bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table.

Speaking ahead of Friday's historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha told CNN that the US President had played a significant role in bringing the two sides together.
"Clearly, credit goes to President Trump," Kang told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Seoul. "He's been determined to come to grips with this from day one." ...

UPDATE: Another viewpoint from Garry Kasparov on Twitter:
What's happening between the Koreas today is the largest slave auction in history. It will legitimize & perpetuate Kim Jong-un's concentration camp state and of course he will not give up his nukes.

2018-04-10

Jonah Goldberg: Mueller had better be right.

Jonah Goldberg at NRO: Mueller had better be right about the Cohen raid.
The fact that Mueller referred this to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York rather than fold it into his own investigation suggests that whatever he found may not be central to his probe. If Mueller had reason to believe that he had Cohen dead to rights on the “collusion” stuff, he probably wouldn’t have farmed this out to a different prosecutor.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman agreed with Mueller’s interpretation and sought a warrant from a judge and that the judge agreed to grant one suggests that Cohen is in trouble. ...
Via Instapundit.