A Question For Free Traders on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

 

Up or down on the TPP?  How would you decide?

When Obamacare was being debated I had liberal friends whose argument in favor consisted of “We need to do something,” and “Health care is a right.” One of my responses was that slogans are not legislation and it is only the details of bill that are relevant. In the case of Obamacare, it was a 2,000-page piece of legislation that no one understood, and today even some of my liberal friend rue its passage as they understand what it actually contained.

1989

 

berlin-wall-falling-2I’m sure you’ve all been reading Titus’s dispatches from Romania with the same fascination I have; if not, I commend them to your attention. But you may have overlooked an especially interesting comment from Percival on Titus’s final dispatch:

Even in a year full of surprises, the events in Romania in 1989 still stick out. It all seemed to happen so fast, even to those of us over here who were paying attention.

The DDR was less a surprise, at least to me, because I had a friend in Berlin at the time. She was living close to the Wall and told me that the protesters had stopped chanting “Wir wollen aus” (dissident emigrants) and switched to “Wir bleiben hier” (revolutionaries). The penny had dropped, the worm had turned, and nothing could ever be as it had been again. But one minute Romania seemed like it was going to hang on, and the next Ceaușescu was giving that disaster of a speech on the balcony when he realized that it was only a matter of time before it all came down.

Harvard Fellow Attends Anti-Police Brutality Conference … in Iran

 

Speaking of education, I caught Michael Totten’s latest column at World Affairs Journal about this group of twenty-odd American yo-yos who’ve gone to a conference in Iran against police brutality and racism. No, not Iranian policy brutality and racism. American police brutality and racism. Mike, reporting this with the journalistic equivalent of a straight face, notes that,

The Iranian government hunts down gay people and hangs them from cranes. It sends the Basij militia into the streets to attack peaceful protesters with clubs, chains, knives and axes. It routinely and as a matter of policy tortures liberal activists and intellectuals in Evin Prison.

There’s much going on in the world at the moment, and instead of bringing you a themed show, we thought we’d look to those whose writings on it we admire. And, of course, a little music.

First up to join is Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign-affairs columnist at the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, America in Retreat, has been quite influential. He and Milt talk about ‘The Tyranny of a Big Idea‘.

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review shudder as intelligence experts believe it’s likely ISIS or some other terrorist group smuggled a bomb onto the doomed Russian airliner.  They also scold Bernie Sanders for deciding now that Hillary’s emails are an issue for concern.  And they shake their heads at the massive protests of Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live.  No podcast Friday.  We’ll be back Monday.

Putin’s Propaganda, Dugin’s Lunacy, and You

 

tass_re146fc7_0I was asking myself this morning why I felt a special need to emphasize that the biggest threats to Europe may not be the ravening hordes of Muslim invaders (or desperate refugees) swarming across its borders (or dying en masse in the Mediterranean) and threatening to suck on the teat of its precious welfare services (or being promptly deported back to hell). After all, who am I trying to persuade? And why? Few members of Ricochet will be voting in European elections, after all. And I hardly wish to make the point that unlimited immigration to Europe will be an unfettered boon; it isn’t even a point I believe.

It took me the day to sort out my thoughts. Europe is not now under grave threat from either communists or Nazis in their most recognizable historic form. There are some left, of course. But perhaps I don’t need to run through the list of them; I’ll just say that I’m on call should you have any questions about Europeans who might be Nazis and how to recognize them, likewise should you have questions about  Europeans who might be communists, I can help you out. (As for the latter, bet you can figure it out without my help. See, for example, the Marxist–Leninist Communist Organization–Proletarian Way, which really exists, as do many such groupuscules. I think time-travelling technology may be involved, or perhaps someone pickled them. Do spend a few minutes on their site, by the way, and tell me whether you think their understandable grievances require our legitimization, given that they’ve got nowhere mainstream to go with their concerns, and Europe’s pointy-headed elite insistently lock them out of the political process. For the record, I am totally in favor locking the Marxist–Leninist Communist Organization–Proletarian Way out of the political process. Call me a pointy-headed European elitist all you like, but I think the world is a better place when people like them are marginalized, mocked, dismissed, and irrelevant.)

My real concern is Russia. It’s Duginism, in particular. But before discussing him, let me take you on a little tour of the kind of Russian propaganda in which Europe’s wallowing — but let me bring it home for you with an example that might feel more personal. Like this:

ISIS vs. Russia?

 

Yesterday, CNN reported that US intelligence believes ISIS brought down Kogalymavia Flight 9268 — the Russian airline out of Egypt — with a bomb. This morning, the WSJ reports that the United Kingdom has come to the same conclusion and has grounded all flights out of Sharm El Sheikh, where the flight originated (there are thousands of Brits there currently on holiday). Several people on Ricochet have previously speculated that the plane was taken out by a bomb near its tail and the Islamic State has already claimed credit for this deed.

My question is this: what does it all mean? Is this the beginning of a broader campaign by ISIS against Russia? Will Chechnya once again explode in violence and terrorism? Will Russia become more involved against battling ISIS, at least to save face?

Nazis. I Hate Nazis.

 

Strange times we live in when American conservatives — or some of them, anyway —  think it makes perfect sense these days for Europeans to get their Nazi groove on. I’ve been hearing this a bit too much on Ricochet of late, so I thought I’d make what in normal times would be an excessively easy call.

Nazis. I hate Nazis. And so should you.

Well, That Was a Disaster

 

For all the conventional reasons, I’ve been bullish about Republican chances in 2016: Democratic policies are unpopular; President Obama’s not running; It’s been eight years; We’ve got a strong bench; and everyone’s tired of Hillary Clinton. Stipulating that it’s generally not a good idea to put much stock into a single poll — let alone one this early into the cycle — this piece from the WSJ has me re-evaluating:

The number of people who are unsatisfied with [Clinton’s] response to questions on the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound dropped to 38% in the poll, from 44% in a poll taken before she testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Oct. 22. The new poll found Republicans’ opinion remained largely unchanged, but among Democrats and swing voters, there was a significant rise in satisfaction with Mrs. Clinton’s response.

Sinai Crash Caused by “External Influences”

 

_86435749_86435748The Russian airline Kogalymavia has blamed “external influences” for Saturday’s Sinai plane crash which killed 224 people, reports the BBC:

A senior airline official said: “The only reasonable explanation is that it was [due to] external influence.” …

At a news conference in Moscow, the deputy director of the airline, which was later renamed Metrojet, ruled out a technical fault and pilot error.

Turkey Votes

 

2015-09-08t200504z_1485595093_gf10000197992_rtrmadp_3_mideast-crisis-turkey-pkk.jpg_1718483346According to initial results, a huge number of voters changed their minds at the last minute and decided to vote for the AKP, despite what they said to pollsters. Either this is a huge upset, a sign of fraud, or the early results are way off. With 50 percent counted, the projection is that the AKP will have 331 seats in parliament — enough for single party rule, and to effect constitutional reforms by taking them to a referendum.

The results so far may be skewed because the earliest results are from the east, where the AKP is stronger. CHP and MHP are stronger in the West.

It’s still too early for post-mortems or to say what this means. It will be a long night for those with an interest in Turkey. But right now, it looks like this:

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer Marco Rubio for defending his description of Hillary Clinton as lying about Benghazi and eviscerating Charlie Rose’s efforts to defend her.  They’re also worried that Pres. Obama is still not serious about wiping out ISIS with his very limited deployment of special forces to Syria.  And they react to the women of “The View” referring to Carly Fiorina’s smile as “demented” and a “Halloween mask.”

The Hearings that Were More Important than Benghazi

 

Writing in The American Interest, Eliot A. Cohen notes to his chagrin that Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the committee investigating Benghazi eclipsed everything else in the news that day. This is unfortunate, he notes, because on the same day, he took part in another hearing, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Capital Hill.

“Vanity aside,” he remarks, “I wish that my hearing had received a bit more attention.” My vanity isn’t at issue here, but I too wish that his hearing had received more attention.

Honor Is in Our National Interest

 

A country that acts solely out of goodness and duty is bound to be played; the world is simply too nasty, too mean a place for the well-intended naive, and even a good country will often have to make ugly decisions that are hard to sleep on. However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that acting in our self-interest is necessarily in opposition to good morals. More often than not, the smart thing to do overlaps with the right thing to do.

During the occupation of Iraq, many Iraqis decided to throw their lot in with the American-led coalition and the new Iraqi government. Whatever, their reasons, it was a risky and — in some cases — very brave decision to make. Though many paid for it with their lives during the insurgencies that rocked the country before its precarious stabilization in 2008, it seemed to have been the right one to make. But in the provinces that have fallen to the Islamic State since our decision to leave, it’s again become sentence to torture and death:

Reality Check: ISIS Could Win

 

is-flagForeign policy experts have repeated the same sentence over and over: “There is no military solution in Syria.” Being professionally trained to automatically question and contradict any opinion held by a very large majority, I have trouble buying this.

Consider, for example, that nearly everyone in 1980 thought the Soviet Union was unstoppable and that nearly everyone in late 1999 agreed that technology stocks were a fabulous investment; we all know what happened in both of those cases. Similarly, if nearly everyone agrees that there is no military solution in Syria, I’m inclined to believe one exists. Let us briefly examine each scenario, unattractive as they may be.

The Assad/Hezbollah/Iran/Russia/Shia Axis Wins

It’s no secret that Russia is and has always been a propaganda state. Their efforts to control information and influence public opinion at home and abroad are are aggressive and extensive. But Putin’s Russia has a greater goal: to control the internet–the greatest tool in bringing about a total surveillance state.

But there’s another side to Big Comrade. It’s a legion of brilliant programmers and hackers who serve as a counterbalance to Putin’s goal of totalitarianism. It’s an epic struggle waged not with guns and bombs, but with mouse clicks and websites, disinformation, misinformation and leaks.

What We Owe

 

24wheeler-web-superJumboIf you haven’t already, take a few minutes to read The New York Times’ obituary for Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, the Delta Force operator killed on Thursday during a raid on an ISIS prison. Seriously, go read it. Just be warned that it may break your heart a little. To say that Wheeler appears to have been an exemplar of American values and masculinity is to rather miss the mark.

There is probably no more manipulative question than to ask whether a war is worth the life of a given soldier. It’s a stupid way to judge things. It asks you to judge a macro event by a micro standard in a way that grossly stacks the deck in favor of the latter. It’s also usually dishonest in that it denies our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen their agency. Surely, MSG Wheeler, a veteran of nearly 20 years, thought his fighting was worth the risk, and there are pesh merga forces and ISF prisoners alive — as well as ISIS fighters dead — in no small part because of his actions. Moreover, it’s abundantly clear that the Army is a huge part of what made Wheeler such a great guy.

But it is, regardless, infuriating to see heroism like this spent on a conflict so ill-defined and mismanaged as the current one against the Islamic State. The president seems bored by — and deeply resentful of — the matter and his greatest desire seems for it to go away. For its part, Congress cannot be bothered to explicitly vote their support for the mission … or even define it. And lest the rest of us get too self-satisfied, these are our representatives and our president, all of whom were democratically elected and could be unelected if we wanted. As it is, America seems content to throw some bombs, waste some money, and provide some occasional air support and transportation. It’s very nearly the worst sort of compromise: We accomplish little, feel bad about it, and get to look weak in the process.

Go On, Ivan: Cut the Cables

 

Headlining in The New York Times today is the revelation that Russian submarines and spy ships are freaking out our defense officials by nosing about the underseas cables that carry the entire information age:

Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict. …

An Autarky Thought Experiment

 

In response to my post about refugee bonds, the Great Ghost of Gödel left this comment obiter dicta:

Not without trepidation or regret have I come around to the Fortress America position, but here I am. Bring all of our troops stationed overseas home. Defend our borders without mercy. If the rest of the world is hell bent for leather on destroying itself, whether rapidly with open war or slowly with insane economics and/or immigration policy, so what? We’re perfectly capable of being self-sufficient as a nation, and it never was a good idea to be the world’s police. …