Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A big win for America — terminating al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed "caliph" of the Islamic State, is dead after a U.S. military raid of his compound in northwest Syria. Al-Baghdadi was corned in a dead-end tunnel underneath the compound, where he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his children. There were no serious casualties for Americans, and U.S. forces recovered his remains from the rubble of the collapsed tunnel to confirm his demise. Far from a profile in courage, al-Baghdadi died as the same cowardly thug he played in life.

"He was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying," President Donald Trump declared in a White House speech. "Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders, and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS."

This win substantially answers criticism of his recent decision regarding troop movements in Syria. The Middle East is a chessboard.

The operation that killed al-Baghdadi was named for Kayla Mueller, the American medical-relief worker who was captured by ISIS in 2013 and then spent two years being tortured and raped by al-Baghdadi himself before she was murdered in 2015.

The reason Trump said he did not give any advance notice to the House Intel Committee? "Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington," he said. "You know that, I know that, we all know that."

Importantly, The Wall Street Journal notes, "The raid also shows the importance of intelligence gathered from prisoners. Iraqi officials say their interrogation of captured ISIS fighters in recent months provided news about Baghdadi's location. The American left has tried to discredit interrogation since the Iraq war, but it remains crucial to preventing future attacks and killing terror leaders."

"Baghdadi's death is significant," says Thomas Joscelyn, an analyst on Islamic terrorism. "He was the supposed caliph, to whom thousands of followers around the globe pledged their allegiance. [But now the] caliphate controls little to no ground, and the self-declared caliph is dead."

That's true, but as the termination of Osama bin Laden proved, however weakened, the Islamic State threat will endure for years as part of the larger asymmetric threat from Jihadistan.



President Trump reaches 157 judges appointed, thanks to GOP Senate

With the support of Senate Republicans, President Trump has appointed 157 judges to the federal bench in less than three years. This means that Trump has filled 18 percent of the 870 Article III judgeships in the country. (Article III judges are the ones defined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution and have lifetime appointments.) Furthermore, Trump has now had more judges confirmed than any of his recent predecessors at the same point in their presidencies.

While many are aware that Trump has appointed two fine Supreme Court justices, it is less well-known that Trump has made significant progress in remaking the federal appeals courts, the 13 powerful courts one level beneath the Supreme Court. Of the judges confirmed under Trump, 43 are appeals court judges — a very impressive number. In fact, this is 14 more appeals court judges than George W. Bush, 16 more than Clinton, and 22 more than Obama had confirmed at the same point in their presidencies.

Additionally, Trump has flipped the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands). For those unfamiliar with the term, “flipping a circuit” means creating a majority of judges on a circuit court who were nominated by presidents from the same party. Trump is also on the cusp of flipping the Second Circuit of Appeals (which covers New York, Vermont, and Connecticut) and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Georgia, Florida, and Alabama). Trump has even made notable gains on the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands) where there are now 16 Democrat-appointed judges and 12 Republican-appointed judges with one vacancy.

Nor are these gains just academic; Trump’s appointees are making a difference. For example, Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, provided the key fifth vote in the Janus case, which established that all government workers have the right to work and cannot be compelled to pay union fees. This was a huge victory for conservative government employees who had previously been compelled to support liberal public employee unions. In addition, as Adam Feldman wrote on SCOTUS Blog, “The Supreme Court with Kavanaugh is distinctly different from the court with Kennedy. There is no longer a clear swing vote.” As evidence of this fact, both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh joined the other conservatives on the Court in a 5-4 decision allowing construction of the border wall to continue.

To try to stop this progress, Senate Democrats continue to obstruct judicial confirmations. They are simply terrified of the thought that they might not be able to use the courts to impose their will on the people as they have done so many times in the past. This fear has even led some Democrats to openly support packing the Supreme Court.

In spite of the great work Senate Republicans have done so far, much work remains to be done. Overall, there is still a small majority of Democrat-appointed judges among all active Article III judges. However, there are 120 current and future judicial vacancies, and nearly 50 judicial nominees are awaiting hearings or confirmation votes. By simply filling current vacancies, Republicans can create a majority of Republican-appointed judges. At the current pace, the Senate would confirm about 70 more judges by the end of Trump’s first term.

Many people voted for President Trump and Senate Republicans because they wanted to see conservatives appointed to the federal bench; and Trump and Senate Republicans have delivered for those voters. Long after the President leaves office, his appointees to the courts should still be working to protect our rights from the leftists who would take them away.



Elijah Cummings and the Little Sisters

Peggy Noonan
I was writing a rather stern column about the mess in Washington, but I got kind of swept Thursday by the beautiful bipartisan tribute to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, in Congress’s Statuary Hall, a ceremony held just before his burial back in Baltimore.

I want to get beyond the merely sentimental. Everyone seems to have liked him a lot; I knew him slightly and liked him too. I would only add to his enumerated virtues the power of his warmth. I met him at an event five or so years ago and when we were introduced I went to shake his hand. He’d have none of that and enveloped me in a hug. I don’t remember what we talked about but it seemed important to the two of us, in one of those nice moments that sometimes happen, that we show a mutual appreciation for who the other was. We did, and held hands. I just found to my shock that remembering this leaves me a little choked.

There was something not sentimental but poignant and half-grasped in the tribute to him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke movingly about how Cummings came to Washington not to be a big man but to do big things. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “He was strong, very strong when necessary… . His voice could … stir the most cynical hearts.” Cummings’s friend Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said he had “eyes that would pierce through anybody standing in his way,” and like the others read Scripture. It was nice to hear the Bible read in Statuary Hall; the religiosity had a great sweetness to it. “In my father’s house are many mansions,” Mr. Meadows read, and suggested the Baltimore boy was in a grand new home.

What was poignant was how much the speakers enjoyed being their best selves. Congress knows how hapless it looks, how riven by partisanship and skins-vs.-shirts dumbness. For many of them it takes the tang out of things. They know it lowers their standing in America. They grieve it. It embarrasses them. They’d like to be part of something that works, something respected.

It wouldn’t be lost on the brighter of them that they were enacting in the Cummings ceremony a unity and respect, a shared purpose, that they wish they could sustain but are unable to.

They believe they are forced into their partisan positions by several things, among them that America is badly divided and the politically active on both sides, in their mutual loathing, pull toward the extremes.

As I watched the ceremony I thought of a dinner two weeks ago with a close friend. It was just the two of us and we found ourselves going deep about how we feel about everything. She is a spirited lefty, a longtime Democratic donor, I am a righty, a conservative as I define it, but neither of us has ever cared much about that because the essence of friendship is … essence. Who you are, which fairly enough includes politics but is not limited to politics. We’ve had 30 years of teasing and occasional sparring but this night we went to the thoughts behind our views. She asked me how I see my own political views; am I more lefty than I was? I found myself saying something I’d never said, that all my political thinking comes down to this: I am for whatever will hold America together, full stop. I see it breaking in a million pieces and my every political impulse has to do with wanting it to hold together, to endure, to go forward in history and the world. If that means compromise, fine. She thought about this, nodded and said softly that that makes complete sense right now. “That’s a program.”

But don’t most of us kind of think like this? Even if we haven’t articulated it or even noticed it’s what we think. But isn’t it the right primary intention?

A deep impediment is the air of political maximalism that careless people who never know the implications of things encourage. Years ago Rep. Bella Abzug of New York would point out that her father was a butcher, who owned the Live and Let Live Meat Market. I always liked that. Nobody says that phrase anymore, live and let live, but long ago everybody did. Now it’s part of what’s missing — a sense of give. So many people feel bullied, pushed around by vague and implacable forces. They fear the erosion of central freedoms.

Here is the first example that springs to mind. It reflects my cultural views and indignations, but I ask you to take it on its own terms.

In early October CNN had a town hall on LGBTQ issues for the Democratic presidential candidates. They said the sort of things they say, you can imagine them, you don’t need your neighborhood pundit to tell you. But at one point the essential nature of the new progressivism jumped out.

Don Lemon asked Beto O'Rourke: “Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?”

“Yes,” said Mr. O'Rourke, not missing a beat. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. So as president we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

Regular readers know we do not especially admire Mr. O'Rourke, that we believe the past year he has been having not a campaign but a manic episode. But he said what he said because he wanted to please a significant part of the Democratic base, and he received big applause.

Can we agree his is a radical, maximalist stand? Under his standard the Catholic Church would be ruined, and with it a whole world of charities, schools, hospitals, orphanages, other agencies, all of which help those with limited resources. Let’s just posit without bothering to defend the proposition that an America without the Catholic church would be a poorer, sicker, colder place, and one less likely to continue.

At almost the same time as the CNN town hall, the Little Sisters of the Poor, who serve the elderly and impoverished, were again in court asking for protection from the ObamaCare mandate that tells them they must include contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans. It’s been a long legal journey: The Supreme Court has already been involved. So has the Trump administration, whose directives regarding religious protection have been challenged by certain states, which got injunctions, which have been upheld by the appellate courts. The Sisters are forced to appeal to the high court again, which will, please God, affirm, with clarity and force, the constitutional rights without which they cannot exist.

Oh, progressives, if you only had the wisdom to back off, to see your demands as maximalist, extreme, damaging to the fabric, the opposite of live and let live. When you push in this way to control the culture of the country, do you ever ask, “When I win, will there be a country left?” [They don't care, Peggy]




OUT OF OPTIONS: Rep. Katie Hill resigns amid allegations of sexual relationships with staffers (The Hill)

JUDICIAL ACTIVISM: Obama judge orders DOJ to turn over Mueller grand-jury material for Democrats' impeachment probe (The Washington Times)

NEWS FROM THE SWAMP: Trump showered with boos, chants of "lock him up" at World Series game in Washington, DC (NBC News)

TOPSY-TURVY: Biologically male NCAA runner named conference "female" athlete of the week (The Daily Caller)

INFERNO: California declares state of emergency as wildfires spread (National Review)

POLICY: Missile defense needs Trump's attention (Hudson Institute)

POLICY: Why Bernie Sanders' universal jobs guarantee is not a worthy goal (Foundation for Economic Education)

LEFTIST LOGIC: Motorcyclist who identifies as a bicyclist sets cycling world record (The Babylon Bee)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here 


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