Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

LinkSwarm for August 21, 2015

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Small LinkSwarm this time.

  • “Hillary Clinton is the contemporary poster child for special privileges for the rich and powerful.”
  • Latest Iran deal revelation: Iran gets to self-inspect their own nuclear site. But Kerry did get them to agree to pinky swear they’re telling the truth…
  • Obama and his party. “No president in modern times has presided over so disastrous a stretch for his party, at almost every level of politics.” Caveat the first: Although I think the phrase “there’s neither a Great Depression nor a criminal conspiracy in the White House to explain what has happened” is probably false on both counts. Caveat the second: Notice how the article carefully omits any mention of the specific Obama policies that have made his party so unpopular…
  • From back in June: Karl Rove lied about Ted Cruz. (Hat tip (tangentially): Perry vs. World, where Evan seems to have woken from his summer slumber…)
  • I really want to believe this Atlantic piece on how Russia is losing in Ukraine, but I just don’t. This one sentence has so much wrong with it I have trouble trusting the rest of the article: “Shale, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and renewables—three areas where Russia is extremely weak—are ascendant and are dramatically altering the market.” Shale’s a solid play if you’ve already tapped out more easily-extracted hydrocarbons (I doubt Russia has), LNG is a profitable byproduct if you’re already extracting oil, but at today’s market prices (which have sucked since 2009) it’s not worth pursuing on its own, and renewables? Hippie, please
  • Muslim beats wife in front of police, saying they can’t arrest him because she’s his property.
  • Slovakia to the EU: Screw you, we’re not taking any Muslim refugees. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Movement in Spain tries to erase Salvador Dali from history. You’ll get my Salvador Dali from me when you pry the melting clocks out of my burning hands!
  • Could Google rig the next election?
  • It’s a Goldman-Sachs world. We just live in it…
  • Three students at the “Homestead Job Corps” murder a fourth. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that program isn’t working…
  • Missed this from earlier in the year: Arkansas cops attempt to plant malware on a lawyer’s computer, fail miserably.
  • Joe Straus is backing Jeb Bush. I don’t imagine that this will come as a shock to anyone…
  • LinkSwarm for August 14, 2015

    Friday, August 14th, 2015

    Austin had a very, very wet spring, but August is shaping up in normal fashion: Bone dry and hot as hell. Try to keep cool and enjoy a Friday LinkSwarm:

  • “There is no real distinction between today’s Democrats and socialists.”
  • Democrats have an America problem.
  • The email scandal could very well sink Hillary:

    Politicized or not, the DOJ will be increasingly boxed in by the FBI and intelligence community investigations. Normally, when the intelligence community finds classified materials in unauthorized locations, it seeks felony prosecutions. Gen. David Petraeus was sunk for keeping his own personal calendars in an unlocked drawer at home. The calendars were deemed classified, even if they lacked an official stamp. President Clinton’s CIA Director, John Deutsch, lost his job and security clearance for using his portable computer at home. It had classified material on it. Those violations are trifling compared to Hillary Clinton’s exposure.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

  • Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin may be joining her in the big house
  • Bernie Sanders up over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire? #WhiteVotesMatter
  • Ohio Democrats continue their youth movement by recruiting 74-year old Ted Strickland for a Senate race.
  • Someone spilled millions of gallons of toxic waste into a river! Call the EPA! Oh wait, it was the EPA.
  • Islamic State executes 300 electoral civil servants in Iraq. Good thing we’ve got Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama sowing peace and stability to the Middle East rather than that warmongering bungler Bush… (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • So why did the Obama Administration pretend Taliban-head Mullah Omar was still alive when he’s probably been dead 2 years? (Hat tip: Prairie Pundit.)
  • And why is the Obama Administration siding with the terrorists and against the Americans who have already won legal judgments against them?
  • A whole bunch of gun myths debunked. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Just why did the University of Minnesota think it needed grenade launchers? (Hat tip: Say Uncle.)
  • China devalues the Yuan. This is Big Freaking News, but hard to conceptualize, since China’s economic statistics are have not even a nodding acquaintance with reality, and haven’t for at least a decade. So is China’s current bubble bad, or super mega world-shatterling bad?
  • Your guide to global black market pricing.
  • Islamic State Worse off than Greece?
  • Brazil: Super-Duper boned.
  • Great Cthulhu emerges as surprise front-runner in Labour leadership contest.”
  • Tianjin, China Blows Up Real Good.
  • Jihadis kill four, kidnap six from hotel in central Mali. That’s really going to crimp your vacation plans. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Cop-killing inmate dies in prison riot. Alas, my electron microscope is being recalibrated, so I won’t be able to find the proper sized violin to commemorate this sad occasion… (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Social Justice Warriors continue their war on comedy on campus.
  • Man arrested for shooting at police in Ferguson was completely unarmed. Except for his guns.
  • Cool World War II radio intercepts story, via Instapundit.
  • Florida Man has been busy.
  • Greece: Dispatches from the Boned

    Thursday, August 13th, 2015

    So I haven’t done a Greek update in a while, since after Greece caved into the inevitable (Newsflash: broke people generally do not have leverage over those lending them money), it was all over but the shouting. Now that Greece and its creditors supposedly have a third bailout deal inked, and Greece settles into its clearly defined misery, let’s take a look at exceptionally bankrupt Greece these days, shall we?

  • Via Zero Hedge comes former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ detailed review of the bailout agreement. It’s a mixture of self-serving lies (trying to distance his own Syriza party from the horrific economic mess they made acutely worse) and brutal truths (about just how screwed Greece is by the agreement).
  • Speaking of Varoufakis, it looks like he’s going to be up on hacking charges…for preparing emergency plans to float the drachma.
  • Oh: He also says the latest bailout deal won’t work. He’s not wrong…
  • Greece’s economy miraculously grew in the second quarter. But that was before the full effects of the crisis were reflected…
  • Greece’s tax revenues have collapsed.
  • Greece’s manufacturing sector fell off a cliff in July. Funny how that happens when your banks are closed and you can’t pay for goods.
  • Greece faces two years of recession. That part’s probably true. But that primary budget surplus? Yeah, not so much.
  • “Greece’s banks just made the mistake of being banks in Greece.”
  • After all that? Greece still isn’t fixed.
  • To add a cherry on top, Greece’s refugee crisis continues to grow. Because it’s still safer to live in bankrupt Greece than the Middle East…
  • Why Did Obama Back Jihadists in Syria?

    Monday, August 10th, 2015

    This piece in Foreign Policy Journal is certainly eye-opening:

    In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.” [Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.]

    Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

    Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?

    Flynn: I think the administration.

    Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?

    Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.

    Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

    Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

    The deeply puzzling thing about Obama’s Middle East policy is it’s sheer incoherence (except, of course, his unwavering dislike of Israel). His fixation on taking out Bashar Assad (a bad actor, to be sure, but not in the same league as the Iranian Mullahs who back Assad, and who Obama evidently has no qualms negotiating with) makes no strategic sense. In light of the above, he’s evidently funding the Islamic State in Syria, fighting it (in the most desultory manner possible) in Iraq, giving in to Iran on nuclear weapons, alienating allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, and has no discernible policy for a post-Morsi Egypt. Obama’s moves only make sense if he wants to promote a Sunni/Shia civil war, or as Obama’s personal fits of pique where he feels slighted. (Screw Syria for ignoring his red lines. Screw Israel for daring to reelect Netanyahu. Screw Iraq for Bush succeeding.)

    The only certainty about Obama’s foreign policy is that future administrations will be dealing with the repercussions from his feckless, aimless foreign policy for decades to come.

    (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)

    LinkSwarm for July 31, 2015

    Friday, July 31st, 2015

    Another month down! here’s one final LinkSwarm to finish off July:

  • “Donations to the Clinton Foundation by Swiss bank UBS increased tenfold after Hillary Clinton intervened to settle a dispute with the IRS early in her tenure as secretary of state, according to a published report.” What are the odds?
  • Hillary way, way, way underwater in swing states. (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Lot of Democrats listed among indicted congress critters. And the Kay Baily Hutchison indictment was bogus.
  • “Nineteen sixty-eight was the year normal Americans saw the Democrats for what they were, and that’s the danger for them in 2016 too – that normal Americans will be reminded about what a circus of welfare-chiseling, race-obsessed, work-averse, baby-shredding freaks the Democrat party is.”
  • Iran says it can ban U.S. arms inspections at will. Wow, that Iran deal just keeps getting better… (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Speaking of that Iran deal, the Obama Administration is hiding documents from the public, even though they’re not classified.
  • And the International Atomic Energy Agency refuses to testify to the Senate on Iran, even in a classified setting. Golly, it’s almost like they’re trying to hide something… (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Michael Totten on Hanoi’s Capitalist Revolution. I dare say that Hanoi more capitalist (and hopeful) than Detroit these days…
  • Medicare/Medicaid: Driving us into bankruptcy for half a century.
  • And Social Security could be broke in 12 years.
  • Another day, another American murdered by an illegal alien.
  • More guns, less crime. (Hat tip: Adam Baldwin’s Twitter feed.)
  • “The fact is that there is no point in arguing with liberal gun-control advocates because their argument is never in good faith….The liberal anti-gun narrative is not aimed at creating the best public policy but at disarming citizens the liberal elite looks down upon – and for whom weapons represent their last-ditch ability to respond to liberal overreach.”
  • “Anti-bullying” school seminar is turned into gay sex demonstration.
  • Brazil joins the league of the boned.
  • The mystery of China’s capital outflows.
  • Dice to sell Slashdot. They managed to take a thriving community and managed to drive much of it away with a combination of poor UI design (Beta, anyone) and pro-social justice warrior posts.
  • How #GamerGate shattered shattered Gawker’s myth of invincibility. Turns out that insulting your readers on behalf of social justice warriors isn’t a sustainable business model. Who knew?
  • Even before the hack, Ashley Madison was a complete scam. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Turkey and the Islamic State: Enemies or Allies?

    Thursday, July 30th, 2015

    So Turkey has evidently started bombing the Islamic State, but also started bombing the Kurds, our allies against the Islamic State (and Turkey’s restive minority).

    But via Jihad Watch comes word that Turkey has secretly been doing deals with the Islamic State on the side as well.

    In November, a former ISIS member told Newsweek that the group was essentially given free rein by Turkey’s army.

    “ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” the fighter said. “ISIS saw the Turkish army as its ally especially when it came to attacking the Kurds in Syria.”

    But as the alleged arrangements progressed, Turkey allowed the group to establish a major presence within the country — and created a huge problem for itself.

    “The longer this has persisted, the more difficult it has become for the Turks to crack down [on ISIS] because there is the risk of a counter strike, of blowback,” Jonathan Schanzer, a former counterterrorism analyst for the US Treasury Department, explained to Business Insider in November.

    “You have a lot of people now that are invested in the business of extremism in Turkey,” Schanzer added. “If you start to challenge that, it raises significant questions of whether” the militants, their benefactors, and other war profiteers would tolerate the crackdown.”

    “War Nerd” Gary Brecher says not to be fooled by the Islamic State strikes Turkey is actually going after the Kurds, linking to a regional source that claims the overwhelming majority of the airstrikes were against the Kurdish PKK, not the Islamic State.

    Says Brecher:

    Nobody much likes the Kurds, especially Erdogan’s AK party. In fact, the AKP hates the Kurds so much that this shared hobby of Kurd-killing has been the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Turkish military and IS. IS fighters have always been able to move easily over the Turkish border, and there are persistent reports that Erdogan’s daughter herself is playing their Florence Nightingale, patching up those rapists’ boo-boos in one of the quasi-secret hospitals along the border.

    The AKP’s position is simple: They hate the Kurds, period. Islamic State also hates the Kurds. So Erdogan has to force himself to mouth even the slightest objection to IS, whereas the spittle really flies when he starts ranting against the Kurdish PKK/YPG.

    Given what we know of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government (they’re Islamist scumbags) and Turkey historically (they hate and fear the Kurds), Turkey bombing the Kurds while pretending to bomb the Islamic State seems the more likely scenario.

    Egypt Behind Sisi As Long As He’s Pounding The Ikhwan

    Saturday, July 25th, 2015

    “The past two years have been the most violent and repressive in Egypt’s contemporary history.” True, but by and large the Egyptians themselves don’t seem to mind. Why?

    Yet despite this bleak security outlook, Egypt is more politically stable than it’s been in years. Unlike the divided regimes that collapsed in the face of mass protests in January 2011 and June 2013, the Sisi regime is internally unified. And the various state institutions and civil groups that constitute the regime will likely remain tightly aligned for one basic reason: they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a significant threat to their respective interests and thus see the regime’s crackdown on the organization as essential to their own survival.

    Lucky for Egypt (and the world) that Morsi and his Muslim Brothers were such idiots. They could have gotten a lot further Islamicising Egypt had they followed Erdogan’s incrementalist model…

    Fragments of a Greek State

    Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

    The self-inflicted destruction of Greece has been accomplished, but they’re still going to be picking up the pieces for years, if not decades. And there’s no guarantee the heavy manners Germany and the troika are imposing will actually be enough to rescue it.

    So, enjoy a random collection of Greek headlines, since I don’t quite have time to pen a piece on The Greater Meaning Of It All:

  • So Greece is going to get bailed out (again), but the actual mechanisms, and who will do the bailing, are far from clear.
  • And Greece needs $25 billion just to get through August.
  • “In the End, Greece’s War on Debt Is A Morality Problem. A majority of Greeks simply do not believe debt must always be repaid.” And how did that idea work out for them? (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Stratfor says that the Greek referendum backed Germany into a corner, and forced them to come down twice as hard. “The leading power of Europe will not underwrite defaulting debtors. It will demand political submission for what help is given. This is not a message that will be lost in Europe, whatever the anti-Greek feeling is now.”
  • Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is not at all happy, saying the agreement makes Greece a “vassal of the Eurogroup.” Hey Yanis: You and the rest of the Greek ruling class are the one who baked the gypsy pie with your reckless spending to prop up your bloated welfare state. You’re just upset that Greeks, not Germans, are the ones having to eat it…
  • Greece may even have to sell some islands and ruins.
  • How Germany Beat Greece In Liar’s Poker.” By having all the cards and not being hopelessly in debt, perhaps? More:

    Many observers are wondering how the left-populist renegades of Greece’s Syriza party, which rose to power in January on the promise of delivering relief from austerity and renewed its mandate with a massive victory in the July 5 referendum, managed to negotiate a bailout deal on Monday that is substantially worse than what was available to Greece before Syriza took office.

    That would be because they were idiots who lied to voters about what they could accomplish.

  • Actual Time headline: “Why European Leaders Don’t Believe Greece’s Promises to Change.” Uh, because they’re not morons?
  • Greece Surrenders to Troika

    Monday, July 13th, 2015

    After six months of jerking around European negotiators, Greece’s far left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally reaped the fruits of his labors: caving in to austerity measures far worse than the ones Greek voters rejected a week ago in exchange for more loans.

    The EU demanded real, demonstrable, non-fake, under-heavy-manners austerity from Greece, rather than the fake kind they were used to pretending to follow:

    For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to Germany Europe or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.

    As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.

    1. Streamlining VAT
    2. Broadening the tax base
    3. Sustainability of pension system
    4. Adopt a code of civil procedure
    5. Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
    6. Full implementation of automatic spending cuts
    7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
    8. Privatize electricity transmission grid
    9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans
    10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
    11. De-Politicize the Greek administration
    12. Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)

    Greece must also hand over €50 billion in assets to an escrow fund it can’t control.

    Just think: If Tsipras hadn’t been such an ass, Greece could have reached a far-less onerous deal to continue the farce another year or so, and probably before their banks started running out of money.

    It seems that Yanis Varoufakis’ ideas about game theory don’t work when one side holds all the cards and the other is dead broke. Who knew?

    What It’s Like To Be an Honest Taxpayer in Greece

    Friday, July 10th, 2015

    I came across this comment from a Slashdot thread on programmers leaving Greece (usual online source caveats apply), and thought it was meaty enough to be worth excerpting and highlighting on its own:

    Let me tell you what happens when you’re 100% legal and declare everything up to the last penny you get as a software developer. In 2012 I had 100,000 Euros income paid 86,000 Euros spent on taxes (income tax with surprisingly different brackets than last year, “temporary” property tax, “temporary special contribution” 4% on the total turnover, mandatory social security, 55% of your current income tax as downpayment for next year). The year before I made 74,000 Euros and paid “only” 50,000 or thereabouts. In return I got: no schools, no roads, no pension, more taxes, more family members depending on me to live. The more you work the less you make (unless you have an ever-shrinking business). Crazy? That’s the Greek tax brackets for you.

    Meanwhile: I have to pay for my own hospital plan because in case I get sick I have to notify the public insurance carrier 15 days in advance of emergency surgery (no kidding!) or 3-4 months before booking an appointment with a doctor. I have to get an additional, expensive pension plan on top of the 350 Euros per month I am currently paying as mandatory social security because there will be no money when I’m 67 years old or have worked 40+ years to get the minimum pension of 700 Euros (nominal; actual payment after taxes and mandatory social security is around 480 Euros). I also need to set aside money to get the kids I’m planning on having to a private school because there are no teachers (not even substitutes) half of the time in the public schools.

    If you are wondering why people tax evade you have to first ask the questions: 1. how much does the state take in taxes and 2. what does the state offer for the money it takes from its citizens? If the answers are “most of your money” and “not that much at all” respectively it doesn’t take a genius to see why you get an endemic tax evasion for free.

    Anyway. After three years of battling the system I gave up and moved away. My last tax filing in Greece was 2014 for my income in 2013. I am owed a 13,000 Euro tax return since August 10th, 2014. Of course it’s NOT credited. And we’re talking about money I have paid as a tax downpayment to the state since August 2013. They hold my money hostage for 2 years and they won’t give it to me. Also, don’t make the mistake of asking whether there’s an interest rate for those two years. Don’t be silly. There’s not! Adding insult to injury I’m still a Greek tax citizen which means I get to pay taxes for the dividends I’m paid from my company abroad. Don’t be ridiculous, of course they are NOT offset by the money the Greek state owes me! I have so far paid another 40+ thousand Euro taxes in these two years where the Greek state owes me the 13,000 Euro tax return.

    I understand all this sounds alien to you. Why so much taxation, why no services in return, why the state isn’t punctual in paying back. Beats me, brothers and sisters. I have concluded that one must be outright insane to try and do business if they’re born in Greece.

    And here you have the endpoint of the cradle-to-grave welfare state: benefits are theoretically generous for those on the dole (though good luck navigating the maze of inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy to collect them), while taxes are prohibitively high for those actually work for a living.

    This is why implementing fake austerity through higher taxes never works: It drives out the productive, the social compact is irreparably broken, and those living off the state’s largess feel no qualms about wringing every last possible penny from it.