2016-12-07

Michael Totten on PRC and Taiwan

My friend Michael J. Totten has a new piece on Red China and the Republic of China:

'I’d love to see the United States recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation as long as the Pacific Rim doesn’t blow up. For one thing, Taiwan is a sovereign nation whether or not Beijing and Washington say so. It has its own democratically elected government and its own institutions. It makes its own domestic, foreign and trade policies with zero input from the Chinese Communist Party. Its citizens have their own passports with "Republic of China" written across the top. Recognizing these facts is just an acknowledgement of reality. Ari Fleischer might not have been allowed to refer to the government of Taiwan, but those of us who don’t work for the government are free to recognize, talk about and write about reality. ...

... We all have to deal with the world as it is, but sacrificing Taiwan to the wolves is outrageous. Taiwan had a “permanent” seat on the United Nations Security Council until Richard Nixon, neverminding tens of millions of corpses, gave it to Mao Zedong. Nixon told Taiwan that the US was engaging instead with the mainland Chinese “not because we love them. But because they’re there.” Fine. It may have been necessary, but it was a nasty business. A bully got its way for four decades not because it is right but because it is bigger. Professional diplomats may have to bite their tongues but the rest of us don’t.'

Read the whole thing at the link.

2016-11-12

World Today: 2016-11-12

The North American press struggles to understand nationalism; a five-way conflict among stateless entities rages within Syria's borders; and an ancient nation seeks to find its place in the Middle East.


Diane Weber Bederman on journalists and the Trump victory:
You misunderstood the desire for a safe country, and law and order, and secure borders for xenophobia; fear of the other, rather than fear of un-secure borders. All of you seem to need to read something negative into comments made by those on the right. In Canada, we now have journalists who read “racism” into the word “values.” You also assumed, in your black and white thinking, and I don’t mean Manichean, that only white people care about secure borders, that only white people fear illegal immigration and immigrants in general, when in fact that there are not against immigration per se, it’s the type of immigrant. They want immigrants whose values are our values and who come here for freedom, not to spread their culture-a culture that calls for “Death to America.”
And you had the unmitigated gall to call these people racist, xenophobic, fearmongering, Islamophobes. You, dear journalists, spread the hate. ...
 Jonathan Spyer on Syria's five-way conflict:


These are: Turkish-backed Sunni Arab rebel and Islamist organizations against the Assad dictatorship, western backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) against IS, Kurdish YPG against the Assad regime, the aforementioned Sunni rebels against IS and, lastly, the Sunni rebels against the SDF.
The problem for those seeking to cobble together a force to take Raqqa city and by so doing destroy the Islamic State, is that the two eligible forces to carry out this action are the mainly Kurdish SDF and the Turkish-backed, mainly Islamist Sunni rebels – but these forces are at war with one another. ...
 Zalmay Khalilzad on Kurdish relations:
Khalilzad predicted Iraq might split into several regions and run independently but in coordination with the central government so Shia, Sunni, and Kurds can run their affairs.
“[Iraq] can stay together…if there is genuine power sharing, resource sharing among the big communities that make Iraq, essentially meaning the Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis,” he explained.
Additionally, he said the landlocked Kurdistan Region would need to be in “good relations” with its neighbors as well as regional powers to be able to grow and establish a relationship with the rest of the world.
“The better relations Kurdistan has with as many neighbors as possible, the better for its independence,” the former US Ambassador stated.
“Ideally, even if Kurdistan becomes independent it should have good relations with Turkey, it should have good relations with Iraq, [and] with other neighbors as well,” Khalilzad continued. ...
 Commentary.  The citizens and civil society of a region fortunate enough to take freedom and security for granted risk forfeiting that security, and that freedom, because they view outside threats as implausible and unreal.

2016-11-10

The Day After



The red bar was reaching ever closer to the middle point of 270, until it finally crossed it, leaving the blue bar behind.
The world ended. Nuclear missiles were launched simultaneously from Russia, China, Japan, North Korea, and Mauritius. Yes, even Mauritius. Simultaneously, a zombie virus outbreak happened in New Jersey, parts of California fell into the ocean due to a fault line collapse, and there were riots in Albuquerque. People who weren't straight, white, cisgendered, heteronormative, neurotypical, Christian men were rousted from their homes, beaten, and dragged across the Mexican border

The riots were unrelated. Albuquerque just likes to riot. We don't even send the news to report on them anymore.

Actually, none of that stuff happened....
 Read the rest at the link.

2016-11-04

Source Bias Checklist

  1. Internal consistency.
  2. External consistency.
  3. Dialog and dissent.
  4. Awareness of objections.
  5. Snarl words and purr words.
  6. Implicit bias.
  7. Narrative.
  8. Red herrings and straw men.
  9. Fallacies.
  10. Psychological factors.
  11. Source's experiences, perspective, perceptions.
  12. Debts and favors.
  13. Medium is the message.
  14. The human voice.
  15. Encourage anonymous sources to go on the record.
  16. Judge source's reliability and disclose potential biases.
  17. More specificity is better.
  18. Do not rely on anonymous sources for sensational reports.
  19. Source must have first-hand knowledge.
  20. Do not lie to protect a source.
  21. What is the source's ideological orientation?
  22. What are the source's financial interests?

On Trump

 I didn't vote for Trump in the primary - I was a Cruz guy and thought Trump was a buffoon. But the voters thought otherwise. At some point I realized I needed to get over myself. I stopped asking "What's wrong with all these other idiots?" and started asking "What are they seeing that I'm not?"

2016-10-29

New Beginnings

In 2004 I began posting at this blog under the title Deams Into Lightning.  The new title, 'Covenant Lands', is what I'll be using as we go forward.  (The phrase is a literal translation of 'Artzot ha-Brit', the Hebrew name for the United States.) The URL for this blog remains the same:

http://asher813.blogspot.com/

In the twelve and a half years that I've been posting here, my personal life has taken various turns, including moves from Portland to San Francisco and back to Portland, and overseas trips to Israel, Iraqi Kurdistan, and East Africa.

I'm now at a phase where my life is starting to become a little more settled, which I hope will allow me to devote more time to studying, and providing meaningful commentary on, the events in our complex and dangerous times.  Stay tuned.

2016-10-18

How Not to Fight Radical Islam

Any rational and civilized approach to the threat of radical Islam in a free society must be based on a clear understanding of what the threat is, and what it is not.

There has been discussion recently of banning certain types of Islamic dress in western countries, particularly France.  This leads to other questions.  Marine Le Pen is quoted on Arutz Sheva as saying, “If we banned the burka, we should also ban kippahs in the entire public sector ... in the name of equality we have to do this. We cannot just ban Muslim dress because then they will say we hate Muslims.”

A superficial response to radical Islam focuses on superficial issues. Distinctive dress, head coverings, or other articles of clothing worn by any religion should not be a problem for a pluralistic society. A better strategy would have been to target those islamic/islamist practices that are the problem, or that can be exploited to cause problems: child "marriage", FGM, sanctioning of domestic abuse, incitement to violence, and full-face coverings that can serve to disguise persons with criminal intent.

A generic ban on religious head coverings does not advance the cause of liberty, but rather sets it back.

2016-10-16

What if ... ?

There's been a lot of speculation lately about whether the Kremlin was the driving force behind the recent Wikileaks revelations about Hillary Clinton; and if so, "Why does Russia want Donald Trump to win the election?"  Following upon this, there is no shortage of theories by HRC supporters regarding Trump's supposed weakness toward Russia, ties with Russia, and so on.

I think it's important to ask questions about the provenance of new information, and to wonder what other parties might stand to gain from passing it on.  But when you start down this path, it's easy to build conjecture on top of conjecture, speculation on top of speculation, guesswork on top of guesswork.  And then you're going down the rabbit hole.

Look, as a pro-Trump guy I can play this game too.  Trump a Russian puppet?  But that's just what they want you to think!  You think Putin and his old KGB buddies are stupid?  They're putting out stuff that's damaging to Clinton with Russian fingerprints all over it, so that the Americans will trace it back to Russia and say, "Hey, all this anti-Clinton stuff is just Russian propaganda!"  And then the Americans will dismiss anything unfavorable to Clinton, and she'll be immunized against any and every scandal, because Russia!  And in fact that's exactly what is happening, you can see it on the social media if you don't believe me.  

Do I believe that that is in fact what happened?  I don't know.  And that's my point here:  I don't know.  I prefer to stick with what's known with some degree of certainty, where we can remain on reasonably firm ground.  Often in life we must form theories, hypotheses, or suppositions about the unknown; but we are safest if we start from a firm foundation of facts and stick to known facts as closely as possible.

Information and Sources

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it relevant?
  3. What are its implications?
These are the basic questions we ask ourselves when assessing the value of new information.  When the information comes by way of an unfamiliar source, it is perfectly rational and appropriate to question what motives may be at work.  

But when speculation along the lines of "Why do they want me to believe this?" takes precedence over accurately answering the basic questions, we are starting to wander down the rabbit hole of paranoid conspiracy thinking.

David Wong on America's Urban Elites

Cracked editor / writer David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) - himself a native of rural Illinois - has a splendid article on how half of America went crazy during this election season.  Yes, it's about Donald Trump, but it's not really about Donald Trump.

Every TV show is about LA or New York, maybe with some Chicago or Baltimore thrown in. When they did make a show about us, we were jokes -- either wide-eyed, naive fluffballs (Parks And Recreation, and before that, Newhart) or filthy murderous mutants (True Detective, and before that, Deliverance). You could feel the arrogance from hundreds of miles away. ...
Basic, obvious truths that have gone unquestioned for thousands of years now get laughed at and shouted down -- the fact that hard work is better than dependence on government, that children do better with both parents in the picture, that peace is better than rioting, that a strict moral code is better than blithe hedonism, that humans tend to value things they've earned more than what they get for free, that not getting exploded by a bomb is better than getting exploded by a bomb.

Go read the whole article at the link.

2016-10-14

Election 2016

Until recently, I've refrained from debating the upcoming Presidential election, or even discussing it at all.  The 2016 election season has been extremely contentious, and I decided it wasn't worth potentially losing friends over.  Besides, I like to take my time coming to an important decision.

So with all that said, I have made up my mind about this year's race, and I will be writing more about it soon, probably after the holiday season is over (Simchat Torah is the Tuesday after next).

2016-10-13

Sophistication

'Everyone who lived here said those things: provincial, self-satisfied, boring. If you said that, it showed you recognized these qualities but did not partake of them yourself.'

-Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye

Liberalism

When anarchy is passed off as so-called "liberalism", the defense of true liberal values appears "right-wing".

Refugees

The Left wants to represent the immigrant/refugee crisis as a referendum on humanitarianism and tolerance. It is not. Nobody is objecting to lawful immigration by people of good intentions who are willing to work, nor to the offering of safe quarter to those innocents who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home nations.

What is objected to, is the indiscriminate admission of foreigners whose intent is less than honorable, without the consent of the citizens of the host nations.

2016-09-22

World Today: 2016-09-22 Thursday

Kenya: Al-Shabaab attack on police station in Garissa County leaves two missing. 'Two policemen are missing after Somali Islamists attacked a police base in northeastern Kenya early on Thursday, a police spokesman said, the latest in a string of cross-border raids by the al Shabaab militia.'

Golan Heights: Syria regime prepares for major operation. Debka reports that 'Six steps by the Assad regime in the last few days, reported by debkafile’s military sources, point to preparations for a massive Syrian army offensive, backed by Hizballah, pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Iranian Rev Guards officers, for clearing the strong rebel presence out of the Syrian Golan. ...'

Iraq: Army claims Shirqat under control. 'Iraq's military backed by air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition on Thursday seized the center of Shirqat, a northern town seen as a stepping stone in the campaign to recapture Mosul from Islamic State.'

USA: Rahami was flagged twice in 2014. 'When Ahmad Khan Rahami returned in March 2014 from a nearly yearlong trip to Pakistan, he was flagged by customs officials, who pulled him out for a secondary screening. Still concerned about his travel, they notified the National Targeting Center, a federal agency that assesses potential threats, two law enforcement officials said. ...'

USA: Islamic State references scrubbed from Chelsea bombing complaint. 'Earlier today, Mike Levine of ABC News tweeted the image above showing a blood-soaked page from Ahmad Khan Rahami’s notebook. The US government has accused Rahami of detonating a bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on Sept. 17 and planting three other explosive devices in New York and New Jersey. ... Curiously, the complaint does not include any reference to the Islamic State.'

USA: Stratfor on Chelsea bombing. 'An explosion in New Jersey on Sept. 17 marked the start of a busy two days for grassroots jihadists in the United States — and for the law enforcement officers responding to the attacks. ...' Timeline and article at the link.

2016-08-29

Iran

Why Obama let Iran's Green Revolution fail. '... Obama wasn't just reluctant to show solidarity in 2009, he feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran. In his new book, "The Iran Wars," Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon uncovers new details on how far Obama went to avoid helping Iran's green movement. Behind the scenes, Obama overruled advisers who wanted to do what America had done at similar transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and signal America's support.'

The Iranian naval threat. '... Meanwhile, the Iranians keep improving the firepower of their fast patrol boats and adapt Western technology to further raise the threat level. They now have a semi-submersible fast patrol boat they acquired from North Korea and improved. This carries significant firepower and is hard to find and hit. They have taken British technology from the superfast Bladerunner speedboat and turned it into the Seraj-1, which exceeds 55 knots on the surface. A newer version, thought to be the Seraj-2, may reach 80 to 85 knots, far faster than anything in the U.S. inventory. And the Iranians appear able to acquire diesel engines, surface drives and other sophisticated gear from Western sources without any practical interference.'

200 yards is too close. '“Too close” has to be publicly defined. The Iranians should be put on notice that if they close to within 500 yards of any ship or boat, they will be fired on, not just given the courtesy of warning shots. Five hundred yards is about the range of a rocket-propelled grenade (though it’s hard to hit anything smaller than a large ship from that distance).'

2016-08-22

Morning Report: 2016-08-22

Turkey promised to "cleanse" its southeastern border area of Islamic State following Saturday's attack at Gaziantep, which killed 54 people at a Kurdish wedding. A security official linked the attack to earlier Islamic State bombings targeting Kurds.

Libyan government forces claim capture of mosque and prison from IS in the terrorist group's stronghold of Sirte. Long War Journal has background:

US Africa Command announced today that the US has carried out 62 “precision” airstrikes since Aug. 1 in support of “Operation Odyssey Lightning,” which seeks to dislodge the Islamic State from its stronghold in Sirte, Libya. On Aug. 17, the US bombed 13 “enemy fighting positions” and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).

Al Bunyan Al Marsoos (“Solid Structure”) operations room, which draws fighters from militias based in Misrata and is allied with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), is the main ground force seeking to clear the city. Special Forces from the US, and possibly other Western nations, are on the ground in Sirte as well. ...

Afghan government claims to have captured Khanabad district in Kunduz province.

Russia is suspending use of Iranian base at Hamadan. "Russia first used the base last week to deploy long-range bombers last week and faced international criticism for it" as part of the joint Russian / Iranian campaign to support Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Debka has more:

Monday, Aug. 22, just a week after the Russian defense ministry proudly released images of the first Russian bombardments in Syria to be launched from Nojeh airbase, which Tehran had granted Moscow near the Iranian town of Hamedan, the Iranian defense ministry snatched the concession back in a public rebuff for Moscow. The Russians had presented its Iranian acquisition as the twin of the air base granted by Syria at Kmeimim near Latakia.

However, the Iranian defense ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi announced baldly on Monday that the Russian mission “is finished for now.” He added that the Russian air strikes in Syria were "temporary, based on a Russian request;" they were carried out with "mutual understanding and with Iran's permission" and that the Russian mission "is finished, for now.” Iranian sources claimed that this stinging slap to the Kremlin was prompted by mounting Iranian popular and parliamentary criticism ...

Israel continues to attack terrorist targets in Gaza in response to a rocket explosion in Sderot.

2016-08-17

Morning Report: 2016-08-17

North Korea says it has resumed plutonium production. 'North Korea says it has resumed plutonium production by reprocessing spent fuel rods and has no plans to stop nuclear tests as long as perceived U.S. threats remain, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday. ...'

Munich raises beerfest security after jihadi threats. 'Organizers of the world's biggest beer festival, Munich's Oktoberfest, have raised security after Islamist attacks in Germany last month, including banning rucksacks, introducing security checks at all entrances and erecting fencing. ...'

Leaked Soros memo on refugee crisis. 'A leaked memo from left-wing financier George Soros’s Open Society Foundations argues that Europe’s refugee crisis should be accepted as a “new normal,” and that the refugee crisis means “new opportunities” for Soros’ organization to influence immigration policies on a global scale. ...'

2016-08-14

Morning Report: 2016-08-14

Hafiz Saeed Khan gets his virgins. Islamic State's emir for Khorasan province (eastern Afghanistan) was killed in a July 26 airstrike in Nangarhar, the US military has confirmed. LWJ observes that 'Khan and his followers were so violent in Nangarhar that he even alienated Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who served as an unofficial spokesman for Khorasan province.'. Stratfor adds that 'Khan's death has been falsely reported before, but Afghan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said he had confirmation from security forces.'

Russia / Turkey rapprochement. Late last week, Turkish and Russian officials met in St. Petersburg to discuss cooperation on economic and Middle East issues (chiefly the Syria situation).

Totten: Iran payment wasn't ransom ... ... but it was ransom.

Simon: Which is worse ... ... an October surprise or a December surprise?

2016-03-03

Cruz, Trump, and Open Primaries

Citing Michael Harrington's post, the Washington Post observes that so far, Donald Trump has fared well in open-primary states (such as South Carolina) while Ted Cruz has won three of the four closed-primary states (Iowa, Oklahoma, and Alaska, with Nevada going to Trump).

US primary elections, in which each party chooses its respective candidate for the Presidential election in November, are held throughout the 50 states on varying dates. Rules regarding the primary process vary from state to state.

In a state with "open primaries",  any eligible voter may vote in either party's primary, regardless of the voter's own affiliation.  In such states, it's possible for voters to vote in the opposing party's primary, and damage that party's chances by choosing a weak candidate.

And that's what may have happened here:  Democrats in South Carolina may have voted for Trump in the Republican primary, because they are confident that he will lose the election to their own candidate, presumably Hillary Clinton.

Harrington concludes that Trump's victories in open-primary states were largely attributable to Democrats voting for Trump in Republican primaries.

The good news for Cruz, according to the Post's Zywicki, is that most of the upcoming primaries - and all of those being held this Saturday, March 15 (Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maine) - are closed.  So this may be Cruz's chance to pull ahead - without interference from Democrat voters.

"If we don't have a country, we don't have trans issues."

Caitlyn Jenner favors Ted Cruz for President, and would like to serve as his trans ambassador, according to reports. 

This is being reported in the appropriate sneering tones by the leftist press, of course, but better understanding between transgender people and conservatives would certainly be a good thing.  (Good for everybody except leftists, of course.) 

While this draws a puzzled "Wait, what?" from the towering intellects at the Huffington Post, Caitlyn herself puts the issues pretty clearly in the People article:

"I get it. The Democrats are better when it comes to these types of social issues. I understand that," she said, but countered, "Number one, if we don't have a country, we don't have trans issues. We need jobs. We need a vibrant economy. I want every trans person to have a job. With $19 trillion in debt and it keeps going up, we're spending money we don't have. Eventually, it's going to end. And I don't want to see that. Socialism did not build this country. Capitalism did. Free enterprise. The people built it. And they need to be given the opportunity to build it back up."
 Queer issues matter, but they're not the only issues that matter.  It's unfortunately still true that many conservatives are behind in their understanding of lesbian, gay, and transgender people, but there's opportunity for dialog.  Queer folk will gain if they do not tie their fortunes exclusively to the leftist star; conservatives will gain if they understand that queer folk do not want to "destroy society" but rather want the same things the rest of us want:  dignity, liberty, and the right to earn their own place in the world.

2016-03-01

Twelve Years and Counting

Next month will mark 12 years of posting hear at DiL.  The last few years have been off-and-on, and I'm looking forward to getting back into blogging.

Within the past year I've made two trips overseas to places I really wanted to visit:  Iraqi Kurdistan, and the African Jewish communities of Kenya and Uganda.  In the coming year I expect to be getting more involved in local politics (no, I'm NOT running for office!) and focusing on the areas of current events that interest me the most.

I plan to be writing primarily about Israel and the Middle East, Africa, the global jihad threat, the free market vs. socialism, classical liberal values, USA politics, Oregon politics, and Western lands issues.  I'll also probably write on science, books, music, and social issues from time to time.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

2016-01-01

Tel Aviv Shooting Attack

Debka:
A gunman in black opened automatic fire on crowds outside the Dioz Bar, on Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv Friday, Jan. 1, injuring 10 people, two of whom died of gunshot wounds and four were seriously injured. He escaped as large police and security forces reached the scene. They have cast a wide net to hunt the killer in the neighboring streets up to the seaside promenade. Police officials decline at this point to determine whether the gunman was a Palestinian or Islamic terrorist or a criminal murderer. ...
Arutz Sheva:
The shooting took place at Dizengoff 122, close to Dizengoff Center Mall, as the area was packed with people. It began at a popular pub, and the attacker reportedly shot at several other institutions as well as at pedestrians walking along the street....
 Stratfor reports that 'two witnesses said a person dressed in black and wearing a black mask carried out the attack with what appeared to be a military-style assault rifle.'