Saturday, May 13, 2017

Weekend Data Dump

This is an interesting Stratfor piece on the Philippines concerning US-China competition for its allegiance. It is all the more interesting since I read 1493, which in part described the competition between the West and China there that has gone even hundreds of years ago. But I can't say that the Philippines is "perhaps the most critical [territory] for the balance of power in the Pacific." I would not trade Japan to keep the Philippines, for example. And China dominance of the Philippines doesn't clear the route for Chinese global trade even if it pushes China's defense and offensive platform perimeter farther out. But the Phillipines is important, no doubt.

A Mexican cave system has thriving life in conditions so blazing hot and harsh that it is astounding that life adapted. Said a biologist: "'Why are we surprised?' Noonan said. 'As a biologist I would say life on Earth is extremely tough and extremely versatile.'" Well, not all life. Humans apparently can't adapt to even a 4 degree Celsius increase in average temperatures over a century (if that even happens) despite our toughness and technology.

President Macron will lead France after defeating nationalist Le Pen.  With the major parties losing in the first round, this isn't exactly a win for the establishment left since the major parties lost and had to rally around the former banker Macron, who was a ham sandwich for the anti-Le Pen voters (and it was a sad "rally" indeed given that the protest ballots cast mean Macron didn't reach 50% of the vote count of a depressed vote total) . As for being a victory for the EU? France basically started the EU. A Le Pen win would have been an earthquake on that issue and her defeat is the victory of the same.

The Air Force X-37B landed a week ago after 718 days in orbit.  I don't mind not knowing what it is doing as long as our foes don't know either.

Nonpartisan news, nonpartisan bureaucrats, and now nonpartisan judges are abandoning all efforts at being even handed. Which deeply offends me considering I spent close to two decades doing exactly that as a nonpartisan research analyst for the state legislature. Of course, I was an at-will employee with the possibility of being fired on 2 hours notice if I couldn't manage to work for both parties with equal dedication. So even if military service hadn't instilled service in defense of the constitution and not the president in power at the time, that might have done the trick alone. Perhaps that could whip the secure partisans--in public offices, anyway--into shape. I have no idea what can compel them if their own professionalism can't restore their balance a bit more.

Ah, our friend Pakistan. I'll just say that if Iran was as good as troubling Pakistan, we'd call our Iran policy a roaring success. So we've got that going for us in Pakistan.

Strategypage reviews Afghanistan. A decision to let poppy production continue uncontested has given the Taliban a lot more money to pay their gunmen.

Obama couldn't kill her ambitions and now Trump didn't? What can end this zombie candidacy?! We have to consider if this is masochism, and the presidential election is just 50 shades of electoral gray pain for her. And are Democrats really ready to put in the ball gag to go along with rigging their primaries again for her coronation?

I know Democrats are working themselves into a panic about mythical death waves with the possible repeal of Obamacare. In their world, only the government has agency to determine outcomes. All bad things possible will happen and people won't deal with issues as best they can. And of course I remain confused about why people had to be forced to buy health insurance if so many people wanted it so badly. Nor do I understand why an expansion of Medicaid which accounts for so much of the increase in the insured required the massive edifice of Obamacare. Anyway, I think we know that a wave of deaths won't be caused by the end of Obamacare because after Obamacare had a chance to have its effect on our people, American life expectancy dropped for the first time in two decades. If the end of Obamacare will kill people, shouldn't the existence of Obamacare have saved thousands? As far as I can see, health problems on the left are self-inflicted. Yeah, Obamacare didn't save them.

Does Russia plan a frigate-centric fleet? That's closer to what Russia should have given that a major fleet investment is a source of weakness for the defense of Russia. (And given the land threats to NATO, I'd be content if Russia spent scarce money in a futile attempt to match NATO navies.) But even this frigate plan seems like an overreach for their high end warship given the trend in Russian shipbuilding that is leaving a smaller, older, and smaller tonnage navy (oh, and Ukraine won't sell the engines needed!) in contrast to the Chinese building program that has aimed for a newer and more balanced fleet with high-end blue water ships.

We could have been Canada? But then who would have been America to protect Canada and the West in general in that alternate, more polite (and bilingual!) world? But that's how the left works. The problem isn't totalitarians who threaten the West. It's American-led resistance that is the problem. You might want to remember how action proposed without America goes (but hey, semi-friendly (oddly, we don't back Hiftar) forces are working on eliminating the last ISIL stronghold in Benghazi, which we initially wanted to protect 6 years ago with a no-fly zone!). And hence we have a clueless Pope who doesn't like that the "M" in MOAB unofficially stands for "mother." I'm so old that I remember a Pope who teamed with America to defend the West against totalitarian threats. Some tips to Instapundit.

North Koreans are showing less respect for their leader? "Ordinary North Koreans are less careful about addressing Kim Jong Un in respectful terms, and in some cases, showing esteem for the leader invites public ridicule, sources in the country say." Until the masses cheer someone calling The Un a "c**k holster"--without being torn apart by dogs and their family sent to a slave camp--what of it?

FBI director Comey was fired. I'd have thought that both Republicans and Democrats could unite in agreeing with this decision considering both parties (and those in neither) have reason to be upset with him. But no, Democrats upset that Comey remained in office are outraged that Comey was fired. There is simply no constitutional crisis involved, no matter how many times you chant it. Not even remotely. Truly, there is a growing epidemic of Trump Hysteria Condition in Democratic ranks. Senator Schumer is just a dishonest clown on this issue. When CNN can detect this epidemic, you know it is bad. Seriously, what's the matter with Kansas Manhattan and San Francisco? Democrats are an eye tic from going on about precious bodily fluids.

It looks like America will add more troops to Afghanistan to help government forces fight the Taliban. I assume allied forces will make a smaller added increment. President Obama massively increased American troop strength there to fight the "real" war, but pulled them out before the military campaign plan was finished, and then decided that we needed few troops to fight "international" jihadis rather than the Taliban we battled during his surges. And since then the Taliban have made gains that make me worry. We still aren't going to reach half the level of the 25,000 (with a single combat brigade in reserve) Americans I thought we should leave there.

This is the centennial year of the start of communism cutting a bloody swath across the world in pursuit of power. Naturally the hideous ideology of autocratic socialism still holds great appeal in American college faculty lounges. Tip to Instapundit.

Remember, even mild dissent is not the highest form of faith as far as Islamists are concerned. I'm reasonably sure the market for COEXIST bumper stickers is much more limited in Indonesia (and their general practice of Islam is the least of our problems in this regard).

I wondered if Mexico would be President Obama's first foreign crisis. There has been no crisis but the drug crime-related death rates rival an insurgency in volume and brutality. When I was much younger, I remember that Mexico didn't care very much about the crime in America stemming from the drug trade, arguing that it was our problem (and the money went to Mexico, so who cares?). Deals with the Devil can be problematic.

Fancy that. I'd throw the book at people like them. If the campus climate is so bad, why do "activists" need to fabricate hate crimes? I pretty much assume these stories from colleges are hoaxes until proven otherwise. Heckuva job guys!

Now if you want to see real unconstitutional proposals, look to Maduro in Venezuela, which is accelerating toward mass violence.  I imagine SOUTHCOM is looking at their scant assets and seeing what can be made available to cope with the humanitarian crisis that could hit the region if things really go bad. The Dutch, as I've mentioned once or thrice, should watch their nearby possessions in case Maduro attempts a last ditch war which he would hope will rally the angry and hungry people.

I'm sure you recall that I've complained (here's a recent one) that it is a horrible crime against language to use "liberal minded" as a synonym for "open minded." Not, as I caution, that I claim conservatives are more open minded than liberals. What annoys me is the liberal conceit that they are uniquely open minded. On the other hand, there is the science. Yeah, you just might want to scrape that COEXIST bumper sticker off of your electric car. Although I am aware that this just might be confirmation bias on my part. As I said, I prefer to go on a case-by-case basis.

As I wrote about the Flynn Affair, I had no particular opinion of General Flynn who was ousted from his national security advisor position. Ledeen thinks he is talented and was slimed. Could be. But Flynn did fail to truthfully inform his boss about his past actions. That's enough cause, I think. Unless that was blown out of proportion too by the pitchfork mob.

This is hilarious. EU apparatchiki have hopped on their savior Marcon's victory chariot to whisper, "Remember Caesar, thou art Euro." The European Union thrilled to have Le Pen defeated are now worried about how Macron, who vanquished Le Pen, views the relation between the EU bureaucracy, France, and Europe.

A Republican Congressman at a district town hall meeting faced anger from a man who didn't want health insurance laws changed that might make him move to insure his wife. Maybe it is just me, but if I had to get insurance for my beloved wife because of illness, I'd cut out vacations, ditch the second car, skip HBO, sell the boat, and yes, even move to another state if that is what it took. But no, the man demanded the entire nation of 315 million people craft insurance laws awful as a whole to make sure his wife is perfectly covered. While I fully understand why that man would want that, why does the rest of the country have to go along?

No, "violence and unrest" aren't tearing Venezuela apart. "Socialism and autocracy" did that. The violence and unrest are the result.  This media blindness is the Anti-CNN Effect. As long as Venezuela was quietly suffering under socialism and autocracy, the media felt that Venezuela was just fine--thriving even! Just ask Sean Penn! So God knows why Venezuela is being torn apart now.

While I remain disturbed as a matter of rule of law that Hillary Clinton got away with her massive violation of national security information security while Secretary of State with her private email server (and Lord knows what she and her family got away with in the Clinton Foundation slush fund), unless the Democrats really persist in their open warfare against Trump, I can't see it as worth doing that. Actually, it might be really funny if President Trump issues a presidential pardon to Hillary Clinton restricted to her email violations.

Obamacare insurance is failing, remember. For those who (like Obamacare shill Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel) like to defend the massive premium hikes with the argument that the only reason they are going up so much is that they were initially set too low, I have a question. Was that too-low level because of politics to make it seem like Obamacare works or because Obamacare architects didn't have a clue about what they were doing?

I do enjoy the newly discovered Democratic demand for rule of law and checks and balances. It seems like only yesterday that Democrats thrilled at the power of a phone and pen. I too want rule of law and checks and balances. But after 8 years of Democrats getting away without it, I'd like at least a couple years of the Republicans having it before a grand deal to restore it. Tip to Instapundit.

While I remain grateful that we have President Trump and not President Hillary Clinton, I would be happier if the president's learning curve was becoming steeper more obviously. To this day, I will say that it was a good thing that the election of Barack Obama proved Americans would vote for an African American. But after 8 years, that's the only thing President Obama really accomplished (I think that the good things he did are largely things any president might have done given the constraints of the world). That first wasn't enough for Obama and not being Hillary is not enough--if admittedly good--for Trump. If President Trump didn't stir the pot so much with undisciplined commentary (no, it isn't a deep plan), I'd also be much happier. But as a wise man might have said, you go to governance with the president who isn't Hillary who you have and not the one you wish you had. But I do pray this gets better.

Yes, America's left really does seem like it is working itself up to more widespread violence. To "save" America, of course. That we need to be saved only from the "demons" inside their heads is irrelevant. The Secret Service has been whipped into shape, hasn't it? But perhaps there is hope. In only three months of his presidency, Trump has been downgraded by the left from Hitler to Nixon. Given a few more months, he might be Bush (who Pelosi said she misses).

Email leaks from Russian sources against Macron at literally the last moment when Le Pen was clearly doomed in the polls is puzzling. Why anger Macron when Le Pen had no chance of winning? But much like Russian leaking "to help Trump," the Russians want to discredit Western democracy when a number of Russians protest the lack of democracy in Russia. The Russian action in France "helped Le Pen" only because of the logic that anything that harmed Macron helped Le Pen. That's the only reason Russia "helped Trump." But in both cases, Russia wasn't trying to get a candidate elected. They were trying to harm the presumed winners and wanted to bolster Putin's rule at home. Funny enough, the Russians may have waited so long in France because of the American experience. By waiting until the day before the French election, the Russians made sure the polling wasn't close enough to give them a surprise!

Celebrating or looking back with nostalgia on communism is every bit as repulsive as whitewashing Nazism.