February 21, 2018

IN THE MAIL: What If It Does Work Out?: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals. New deals every hour. Your patronage is always appreciated!

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Roger Simon explores How the MSM and Russian Trolls Are Destroying the Democratic Party.

CHRIS QUEEN: Meet the Olympic Athletes Who Probably Don’t Belong There.

VALENTINE’S DAY MEDEVAC DURING TET OFFENSIVE 1968: The helicopters are bringing wounded men to a field hospital near Hue City. A grim photograph.

ANTITRUST UPDATE: Amazon is on its way to becoming the next Standard Oil, amassing inordinate market power to set the terms by which goods are bought and sold in the United States.

Amazon, in just 23 years, has gone from a website offering books at a discount to a behemoth with revenues that now surpass all of America’s department, grocery store and restaurant chains combined. Most worrisome is that the company dominates all e-commerce, which grows five times faster than brick-and-mortar retail, and is going to enter the financial services and healthcare sectors. This is in addition to its recent entertainment ventures and its new entry into the $8 trillion industrial market, providing everything from valves to industrial motors and maintenance supplies.

The company has a market capitalization value of $602 billion, which is, ironically, bigger than was New Jersey’s GDP in 2016.

Heh.

WHY RELYING ON TWITTER IS JUST PLAIN STUPID: Chris Cuomo does it again, this time retweeting a totally bogus claim — without a lick of fact-checking — that some kid bought an AR-15 without valid ID. Twitter busts him on the fact that the same kid admitted he never bought the weapon, and Ben Shapiro adds that:

“When called on it, Cuomo tweeted, “Isn’t the point that the kid’s age and lack of ID wasn’t a deterrent? and this isn’t all gun shops. Place I bought my shotgun basically goes farther than the law requires and makes judgments about whom to sell to. Point is the system should be better.”

Again, we see an alleged journalist whose purported commitment to principles of accuracy are swept aside when there’s advocacy to be made. CNN’s own guidelines say:

“CNN does not try to appeal to a specific point of view or political constituency. To the contrary, the reporters, producers, editors and writers at CNN aim for comprehensive journalism.”

I wonder if he’s actually read this.

THE CRITICAL MINERALS LIST: Compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. “…a draft list of minerals considered critical to the economic and national security of the United States.”

RELATED: Congo and the corrupt cobalt crisis. (Scroll down to February 10 post.)

BLUE WAVE? Trump rebound has Democrats fretting over midterms.

This one comes from Politico:

House Democrats are heading into the throes of the election haunted by many of the same problems that dogged them in 2016: a Trump-dominated news cycle, a message that’s struggling to break through and sharp divisions within the party about how to fix it.

Now many Democrats say they’re watching nervously as polls start to trend in Republicans’ favor — and worry they’re witnessing the beginning of a slow-motion train wreck that they have no idea how to stop.

There are still widespread disagreements within the diverse 193-member caucus about what campaign message Democrats should rally around in the final months before the midterms and even who should be the party’s chief messenger.

I’m usually loathe to give advice, but if anyone in the Democratic caucus is reading this, please take my suggestion of running against tax cuts and in in favor of radical identity politics.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Event on ‘white supremacy’ organized in response to Shapiro. And they’re really weaselly about it: “‘We do not know whether Ben Shapiro is a white supremacist,’ organizers of the event told Campus Reform. ‘What we know is that we have received an outpouring of support.'”

I don’t know whether the organizers of this event are child molesters, but I do know that Ben Shapiro’s will draw a bigger crowd.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Kill the NRA, Mueller Gets Another One and Much, Much More. “Speaking of RUSSIAN troll farms, according to The New York Post, the RUSSIANS ‘hired two actors in an abortive bid to fake a sex tape of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’.”

Rule 34 always applies, even in presidential politics.

DEEP STATE STASI: When School-Voucher Foes Called in the Feds … and Called the Shots. “It was a prolonged mystery that struck Wisconsin education reformers as more akin to a Kafka novel than American due process: Who was behind cryptic demand letters sent under the aegis of the Obama Justice Department, intimating without specific evidence that Milwaukee’s school-choice program was illegally discriminating against disabled kids? Now, after a six-year bureaucratic and legal tangle in which school voucher advocates said they were stonewalled by Washington, the mystery has been solved. And the answer, they say, is alarming: The federal operation was sparked and practically run behind the scenes by liberal opponents of the program.”

AT AMAZON, still at #1, Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

RICH LOWRY: THE RUSSIANS DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO US THAT WE WEREN’T ALREADY DOING TO OURSELVES: “The larger goal was to sow discord, yet we had already primed ourselves for plenty of that. Does anyone believe, absent Russian trolls on Twitter and Facebook, that we were headed to a placid election season involving an incendiary, mediagenic former reality TV star bent on blowing up the political establishment and a longtime pol who had stoked the enmity of Republicans for 30 years and was under FBI investigation?”

The Russians didn’t make Hillary skip Wisconsin, and they didn’t make her stage a late, and grudging, concession.

MORE THAN CRUMBS: Heckler confronts Pelosi over her wealth: ‘How much are you worth, Nancy?’

BILLY GRAHAM HAS DIED, at 99.

He, my dad, and Richard Nixon had an episode together, which you can read about here.

BYRON YORK: Devin Nunes’ 10 questions about the Trump dossier.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes has sent a series of questions about the Trump dossier to a number of current and former government officials. The committee did not specify to whom Nunes sent the questions, but a spokesman said the letter has gone to more than 20 recipients.

The questions concern when the recipients first became aware of “the information contained in the Steele dossier,” referring to the compilation of anti-Trump allegations compiled during the 2016 campaign by former British spy Christopher Steele. The letter asks who the recipients may have shared dossier information with. They ask when the recipient first learned that the dossier was financed by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. They ask when President Obama was made aware of the information in the dossier. And more.

Interesting.

IT’S IN A COUNTRY WESTERNERS DON’T CARE ABOUT, AND IT MAKES MUSLIMS LOOK BAD, SO IT’S NOT GOING TO BE A STORY: A Slaughter In Nigeria Goes Unreported.. “One attack took place in broad daylight, as people were about to go to church. The assailants chased and killed the villagers and burned down nine churches and many more houses.”

CHANGE: Dems fume as Trump pushes low-cost, ObamaCare alternative health plans.

The proposed regulations would allow insurers to sell individual consumers “short-term” policies that can last up to 12 months, have fewer benefits, and come with lower premiums.

The plans also would come with a disclaimer that they don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protection requirements, such as guaranteed coverage. Insurers could also charge consumers more if an individual’s medical history discloses health problems.

But at a time of rising premiums, Trump administration officials touted the option as a boost for those who need coverage but don’t qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and would otherwise face paying the full premium cost.

“We need to be opening up more affordable alternatives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters. “It’s one step in the direction of providing Americans with alternatives that are both more affordable and more suited to individual and family circumstances.”

Good.

MARY CHASTAIN: Refugee Haven Canada Ready to Send More North Korean Asylum Seekers Back Home.. “But reformed jihadists are okay!”

After “reformed jihadists” is not quite the proper place to insert a “Heh.”

WELL, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR SENSIBLE GUN POLICIES: Florida Senate Committee Taking Up Bill to Arm Teachers.

Related: 250 Teachers Sign Up for 50 Seats at Concealed Carry Training Session.

BUT TRUMP’S A WARMONGER OR SOMETHING: U.S. says ready to talk Mideast peace; Abbas calls for conference.

REASON: No, Trump Did Not Make It Easier for Mentally Ill People to Buy Guns: Shooting revives deliberately misleading talking points about a bad regulation both the NRA and the ACLU opposed.

In the wake of yesterday’s deadly school shooting in Florida, President Donald Trump tweeted that there were signs that alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz was “mentally disturbed.” Trump encouraged people to report bad behavior to authorities.

In response, a Twitter and media parade of people spouted misleading claims about an Obama-era regulation that Trump and Congress rolled back.

None of this is a remotely accurate description of what happened. A year ago, Congress and Trump eliminated a proposed rule that would have included in the federal government gun background database people who received disability payments from Social Security and received assistance to manage their benefits due to mental impairments.

This is a regulation that potentially deprived between 75,000 to 80,000 people of a right based not on what they had done but on the basis of being classified by the government in a certain way. The fact that these people may have these impairments did not inherently mean that they were dangerous to themselves or others and needed to be kept away from guns.

As I noted when the regulation was repealed last March, this rule violated not just the Second Amendment but the Fourth, because it deprived the affected people of a right without due process. The government does have the power to restrict and even deny gun ownership to people, but it has to show that these people have engaged in behavior that makes weapons dangerous in their hands.

That’s why the regulation was opposed not just by National Rifle Association (NRA) but by several mental health and disability groups and by the American Civil Liberties Union. Pundits largely ignored the latter groups’ opposition to the rule, preferring to play up the power of the NRA and their influence on Republicans to turn the issue into a partisan fight.

What’s funny is, when I posted this Reason article on Facebook, I got a Facebook-generated “fact checker.”

The thing is, the AP article just says that Trump signed the order — which nobody disputes — but doesn’t undercut the Reason piece at all. Even worse, I heard nothing from Facebook and only found out that this was what Facebook was doing from friends. If this is how their much-touted anti-fake-news program works, it’s pathetic.

AMERICA: West Point Posthumously Accepts Fallen Parkland JRTOC Student.

BABY STEPS: Saudi women to start own busines without male permission.

The policy change, announced by the Saudi government on Thursday, also marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades.

“Women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from (governmental) e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian,” the ministry of commerce and investment said on its website.

Under Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system, women are required to present proof of permission from a male “guardian” — normally the husband, father or brother — to do any government paperwork, travel or enrol in classes.

Long dependent on crude production for economic revenue, Saudi Arabia is pushing to expand the country’s private sector, including an expansion of female employment under a reform plan for a post-oil era.

All these baby steps are adding up — faster than I’d thought possible, and without (yet?) any major backlash.

THIS IS CNN: Trump’s Twitter Venting Against FBI Is Just What Russia Wants.

THE HILL: Judicial order in Flynn case prompts new round of scrutiny.

The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has ordered special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to turn over any “exculpatory evidence” to his defense team.

The development generated immediate attention in conservative circles, with some seizing on the order as a potential indication that Flynn’s guilty plea had been called into question.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan filed the order on Friday, directing federal prosecutors to produce to Flynn’s legal team “any evidence in its possession that is favorable to defendant and material either to defendant’s guilt or punishment” in a timely manner.

Sullivan’s order invoked the “Brady Rule,” which requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence in their possession to the defense — that is, evidence that could prove favorable to the defendant in negating his guilt, reducing his potential sentence or bolstering the credibility of a witness.

Could this be Ted Stevens all over again?

FROM BLAKE SMITH:  Test of Valor.

NO, THEY’RE NOT.  BUT KEEP TREATING THEM AS THOUGH THEY ARE AND THEY’LL BE:  Are American Boys Broken?

WHAT PART OF CRIMINALS DON’T OBEY LAWS DO THEY FAIL TO GET:  Florida House kills AWB bill. (Senate is still not decided).

OH GREAT, CALIFORNIA GOT RUS:   Plague of giant, buck-toothed rodents invades California.

FINANCIAL BUBBLE MEETS EDUCATIONAL BUBBLE:  NYU student paid his tuition with bitcoin profits.

GERMANY, WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM:  Mercedes maker seen as using VW-like emissions tests.

ADMIT IT: YOU WANT TO ATTEND THE LEGO EXPO:  Huge Lego sculptures are taking over NYC.

February 20, 2018

MICHAEL LEDEEN: A Great Loss: Two Brilliant Italians, a Historian and a Politico, Pass Away.

Read the whole thing.

AT AMAZON, deals on Men’s Shaving & Hair Removal.

A LETTER TO THE BOYS AND YOUNG MEN OF AMERICA: “The bodies aren’t even cold yet and already you are being blamed.”

MEN WITH CHESTS, and those without.

GOOD. IT’S CHEAP EMOTIONAL BULLYING. Florida House votes down motion to take up weapons ban with Douglas students present.

OPEN THREAD: Thread away!

I WAS ASSURED IN MY YOUTH THAT ALL THESE SOCIAL CHANGES WOULD PRODUCE UNIVERSAL HAPPINESS: This nation pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it.

This, by the way, is an excellent essay. Andrew and I, as longtime InstaPundit readers will know, had an up-and-down blogospheric relationship, but every one of his New York Magazine essays that I’ve read had been really first rate.

CHANGE: Germany’s Oldest Party Drops Below Right-Wing Upstart in Poll.

21ST CENTURY PROBLEMS: Towns cracking down on GPS app shortcuts. “The apps use real-time traffic data to reroute drivers around long delays, sometimes taking vehicles through little-known bypasses or residential streets not normally used by a large number of vehicles for a daily commute.”

Yeah, last year in LA I was driving to Roger Simon’s house and Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevard were both jammed; Google routed me through a bunch of residential streets in Beverly Hills and I noticed that quite a few other cars were following the same route, probably for the same reason. But roads aren’t just for the people who live on them, and ordinances that fine “non-resident drivers” aren’t likely to hold up.

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Plus, post Valentine deals in Jewelry.

OBVIOUSLY, SHE’S MOTIVATED BY RACISM AND FEAR OF A STRONG BLACK MAN: Jill Abramson Reboots Her ‘High-Tech Lynching’ of Clarence Thomas. “She kicked up dirt to give the impression of scandal, which would not have been necessary had she actually uncovered proof of one. Meanwhile, she unintentionally presented stronger evidence of her sham than of the scandal she hoped to create.”

WANT TO LIVE PAST 90? It Helps To Drink Alcohol. “Here’s some information to ponder while hitting the gym instead of a bar: Beer and wine have better health benefits than exercise in terms of longevity. Those are the findings of University of California neurologist Claudia Kawas and other researchers conducting the 90+ Study, an effort that started in 2003 to explore impacts of daily habits on longevity.”

I hope Stephen Green will raise a glass to my memory on New Year’s day, 2200.

IT’S COME TO THIS: Washington Post opinion piece defends Peron, compares him favorably to Trump, because “Peronism led a process of expanding economic equality, collective organization and political enfranchisement. Trumpism, by contrast, builds upon American tendencies toward inequality, individualism and political disengagement.” Left-wing fascism, in other words, is superior to American democracy. Breaking eggs to make omelettes and all that.

YOUR DAILY TREACHER: Comrade Michael Moore Attended Glorious Russia-Backed Anti-Trump Rally.

OUT: GATEWAY DRUGS. In: Gateway Knives.

HOWARD DEAN: Devin Nunes ‘Belongs in Jail.’

POWERLESS ON THE BENCH: A powerful speech by Kevin Sharp, a former federal district judge, who resigned from the bench because he could no longer be complicit in crazy jail sentences caused by a combination of Congressional malfeasance and prosecutorial overzealousness.

THE PERILS OF TAX REFORM: Plexus Announces Revised Capital Allocation Plan and Employee Bonus.

• Plexus’ Board of Directors has approved a new share repurchase authorization, commencing upon completion of the 2016 Share Repurchase Plan, in the amount of $200 million. Shares would be purchased through the open market, on a relatively consistent basis, with the intent to complete the repurchases in fiscal 2019.

• In order to reward employees for their contributions towards Plexus’ success, Plexus will provide existing, full-time, non-executive employees a one-time cash bonus. This bonus will be provided in the fiscal second quarter to nearly 16,000 employees, totaling approximately $13 million.

Let me have just a little bit of peril.

I HAD BEEN ASSURED THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN: Marines Quietly Lower Combat Training Requirements To Help Female Officers.

BEST TO WORST: Every Full-Sized SUV Ranked. But where’s the Toyota Land Cruiser?

USEFUL IDIOT OR FELLOW TRAVELER? Michael Moore Plays Into Russia’s Plans, Urging Kids to ‘Revolt!’ and ‘Shut Down These Schools.’

WHISKEY: The alcoholic drink that’s even better for you than wine.

The article doesn’t say whether 12-year-old-and-up single-malt scotches are even better for you than everyday whiskeys, but I say why take chances.

OH, GOODY: Flu is evolving in new and unpredictable ways in China’s poultry.

RICHARD POLLOCK: George Soros Makes Massive Financial Investments On Fossil Fuels.

In the last quarter of 2017, Soros Fund Management reported investments in eleven new fossil corporations totalling nearly $160 million, according to his company’s December 31, 2017, filing before the Securities and Exchange Commission reviewed by TheDCNF.

His investments in fossil fuels undermines his public pledge to use his money to eliminate the oil, gas and coal industries, claiming they threaten the planet by accelerating climate change.

The billionaire’s most recent political efforts to warn about climate change was his underwriting of the organizations behind the April 29, 2017, “People’s Climate March” that marked the 100th day of President Donald Trump’s administration. Soros donated $36 million to 18 of the march’s 55 steering committee organizations between 2000 to 2014, according to the Media Research Center.

He also agreed to give former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection $10 million over a three-year period.

Further, Soros founded and operates his own climate change advocacy group called the Climate Policy Initiative. He pledged to give at least $100 million in 2009 to the institute over ten years and in 2015 he gave $26.5 million to the group, according to his latest filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

But without flagrant hypocrisy, where would Soros get the money to finance his progressive political causes?

IF NRA’S BUCKS ARE KEY TO ITS POLITICAL POWER, WHAT ABOUT THESE FOUR LIB GROUPS? Each of them spent more for Democrats in the 2016 campaign than the NRA did for Republicans, so why do we always hear kids are slaughtered in schools because you-know-who controls Congress with its money and blocks passage of new gun control laws that would save lives? Collectively, the four spent more than seven times as much as the NRA!

FASTER, PLEASE: Researchers create first superatomic 2-D semiconductor.

SECDEF MATTIS: Service Members Need to be Deployable or Find Another Job. “If you can’t go overseas … carry a combat load, then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and equitably across the force.”

“IMPEACHMENT OR BUST”: What if ‘Resist!’ makes it harder for Democrats to take back the House?

Finally there’s Mr. Trump. Even with his recent bump in the polls, he remains divisive. But he’s not the only divisive politician who will figure in this election. The most recent Politico/Morning Consult poll suggests that Nancy Pelosi has pulled off a largely unheralded achievement: In the Age of Trump, she is arguably the most unpopular politician in America.

What does that mean for impeachment? Well, in 69 House districts surveyed by the Congressional Leadership Fund (a super PAC devoted to maintaining the GOP majority), Mrs. Pelosi is underwater in every one. She is also toxic among independents.

Take California’s 10th District, held by Republican Jeff Denham. Hillary Clinton carried this district in 2016, and Mr. Trump’s approval rating is at minus four. But again, Democrats are split among eight primary contenders. And the CLF survey showed that voters in Mr. Denham’s district prefer Paul Ryan as speaker to Mrs. Pelosi by 13 points. Come this fall, expect many GOP ads featuring Mrs. Pelosi calling tax cuts for workers “crumbs” and reminding voters that even if they find their Democratic candidate for the House reasonable, a vote for him will be a vote for Speaker Pelosi.

Of course it’s still early, and the polls remain volatile. The received orthodoxy may well turn out to be true, and the blue tsunami will wash over Congress in November, which will be followed by President Trump’s impeachment the following year.

Even so, the Resist! card remains a huge gamble.

All Democrats have to do is not act crazy, somebody recently quipped, and they can’t even manage that.

21ST CENTURY TECHNOLOGY: Building lighter and huge in the low gravity of space.

JOE PAPPALARDO: Missile CSI: How We Know Iran Violated an Arms Embargo.

COMING OUT FROM NASSIM TALEB: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Sounds very interesting, and very much up my alley.

BLOODY NOSE? The U.S. is to deploy new attack drones in South Korea that could be used to kill North Korean leaders and launch pinpoint strikes on its missile launch pads.

The Gray Eagle is an improved version of the MQ-1 Predator, the leading U.S. medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, and has both strike and reconnaissance capabilities.

With a 17 m wingspan, it is 8 m long and can fly at a maximum speed of 280 km/h for up to 30 hours. It is capable of non-stop surveillance missions and intelligence gathering in an area of a 400 km radius from an altitude of 7.6 km, which means it can target most parts of North Korea.

It could hit a vehicle carrying North Korean leaders, a missile launch site, or mobile missile launchers with four Hellfire anti-tank missiles or four Viper Strike small guided precision bombs. Each GPS-guided Viper Strike bomb weighs 20 kg and is accurate to within 1 meter so it can destroy even a fast-moving vehicle.

Last year, Beijing objected to the deployment plan, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying all sides concerned should “step on the brakes” if they want peace and stability in the region.

Deploying a drone armed with just a few, small conventional weapons doesn’t seem like a big escalation in response to a nuclear threat.

30 MACHINES that changed the world.

JEFF SESSIONS: FBI’s Use of Anti-Trump Dossier to Obtain FISA Warrant ‘Will Be Investigated.’

You would certainly hope so.

IT’S ALMOST AS IF THE JUDICIARY IS ENGAGED IN SOME SORT OF CLASS WAR OR SOMETHING: Dissenting from denial of cert, Justice Thomas complains Second Amendment has become “constitutional orphan.”

“JUST AN ASS-BACKWARD TECH COMPANY”: How Twitter Lost the Internet War.

Del Harvey, Twitter’s resident troll hunter, has a fitting, if unusual, backstory for somebody in charge of policing one of the Internet’s most ungovernable platforms. As a teenager, she spent a summer as a lifeguard at a state mental institution; at 21, she began volunteering for Perverted Justice, a vigilante group that lures pedophiles into online chat rooms and exposes their identities. When the group partnered with NBC in 2004 to launch To Catch a Predator, Harvey posed as a child to help put pedophiles in jail. In 2008, she joined Twitter, then a small status-updating service whose 140-character quirk was based on the amount of alphanumerics that could be contained on a flip-phone screen. She was employee No. 25, and her job was to combat spam accounts.

Harvey’s bildungsroman is legend inside Twitter, where she now serves as vice president of trust and safety, effectively commanding a massive, never-ending war between the company’s censors and a legion of Russian bots, sexual harassers, neo-Nazis, and Turkish hackers who have, at times, seemed to overwhelm the platform. For the past decade, she has been at the forefront of that battle, winning the loyalty of Twitter employees who respect her deep institutional knowledge. But as Twitter has grown from a small messaging platform with no revenue to a $25 billion public company, many company insiders have come to a frustrating conclusion: it’s a war that Harvey is losing.

You’ll notice that, at least based on the list presented here, Harvey is doing nothing to battle progressive trolls — of which there are plenty.

Related:

Enough of these anti-Second Amendment bots have sprouted up just since Friday that it’s easy to spot the template, but it remains to be seen what — if anything — Harvey will do about them.

FREE SPEECH: Let’s Talk About It.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER? Venezuela cryptocurrency to draw Turkish investments.

“On Tuesday, there will be quite a few announcements about the start of the process,” Venezuelan Cryptocurrency Superintendent Carlos Vargas said on the sidelines of a political meeting in Caracas.

“And there will surely be a lot of investors from Qatar, Turkey, and other parts of the Middle East, though Europeans and Americans will also participate.”

He did not elaborate.

That sounds less like Turkish investment plans and more like wishful thinking in Caracas.

PITY THE KURDS: Turkey’s president says Turkish troops involved in an offensive to drive out Syrian Kurdish militiamen from a Syrian enclave will soon begin a siege of the city of Afrin.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his ruling party’s legislators on Tuesday that the month-long offensive into the northwester enclave of Afrin has so far been progressing slowly.

He says Turkey is not there “to burn and destroy” the enclave but to ensure it becomes a “safe and livable place.”

Erdogan said that, however, “in the coming days, the siege of Afrin city center will commence at a more rapid pace.”

Turkey launched its offensive to clear Afrin of the Syrian Kurdish militia it considers a “terrorist” organization and an extension to its own outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting within Turkey.

Turkish troops have so far seized border regions encircling Afrin, including strategic hills.

The fate of Syria’s Kurds is the Levant’s next humanitarian crisis — on top of all the others.

IN THE MAIL: J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018: For Preparing Your 2017 Tax Return.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals. New deals every hour. Your patronage is always appreciated!

TYLER O’NEIL: The Worst Presidents Everyone Forgets About.

JILL ABRAMSON REBOOTS HER ‘HIGH-TECH LYNCHING’ OF CLARENCE THOMAS: “Feel free to question Abramson’s timing and her subjectivity. Indeed, Abramson admits she is targeting Thomas again solely because the timing is proper, and the target high-value.”

CHANGE? Democrats Hoping for a Shocker in Trump Country. “Conor Lamb is running as a pro-gun, pro-union, pro-drilling Democrat in a region where voters have defected from the party en masse. Republicans hope that tying him to Nancy Pelosi is all that’s needed to hold onto this seat—and perhaps the House majority.”

Josh Kraushaar:

This slice of western Pennsylvania is filled with politically homeless voters, once-reliable Democrats who have grown alienated by their party’s drift leftward. Many of these up-for-grabs constituents don’t fit any neat political typologies: They’re gun-owning seniors who want to make sure their entitlement programs are protected. They champion the fracking boom that has revitalized the region’s economy, but also care about clean air and water. They’re compassionate towards immigrants, but want them to learn English and assimilate into American society. A majority voted for Walter Mondale in 1984, but became Donald Trump supporters in 2016.

These are the type of voters that Democrats need to win back if they hope to hold governing majorities into the future. And these Pennsylvanians will soon be rendering a critical verdict that will be heard around the country in a closely watched congressional election on March 13: Can the party win back some of these blue-collar voters that have been drifting unmistakably towards Republicans?

Running “moderates” all across the nation helped the Democrats win the House in 2006 — moderates who went on, by and large, to vote in favor of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, etc.

PROF. JAMES FOX: School shootings are not the new normal, despite statistics that stretch the truth: If you think that our schools are under siege like never before, take a statistical trip back in time.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in which two or more people were killed, not counting those perpetrators who committed suicide.

But enough of your facts, Prof. Fox. What of people’s feelings?

STEPHEN L. CARTER: ‘The Black Panther’ Is No Call for Revolution: The superhero seeks to inspire, not force the world to change.

I’m somewhat troubled that we ascribe such great social importance — and this is just the latest example of many — to movies about comic book characters.

HMM: With Nowhere Else to Turn, Syrian Kurds Will Have to Embrace Assad’s Army.

With the understanding that they don’t really have anyone to rely on in their struggle against the Turkish forces that invaded northern Syria’s Afrin district in January, the Syrian Kurds will have to do a back flip and embrace the Syrian military. The army forces and those Syrian militias that have been helping President Bashar Assad’s regime are prepared to go into the Afrin district and even into the city itself to restore the regime’s control over the area, erect a defensive wall against the Turkish forces and perhaps later even expand Assad’s control over the other Kurdish districts in northern Syria.

The leadership of the Afrin district, one of the three autonomous Kurdish districts, denies it has reached any agreement with the regime, but judging by the movements of the regime’s army and the vague responses of the Kurds, this will be the next move. If indeed the Syrian military takes control of the district and positions military outposts along the Turkish border, it would be an important achievement for Assad that could have crucial consequences for the diplomatic process aiming to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Related: Turkey has warned the Syrian government not to help Kurds fighting against Turkish forces in northern Syria.

And: Moscow calls on US not to play with fire in Syria.

So we have US friends teaming up with a regime the US wants gone to stop a US ally from killing US friends while the Russians accuse the US of messing things up in the Middle East.

Sounds about par.

CHANGE: China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet has officially entered service.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Minnesota legislation takes on ‘intellectual bullying’ on campus. “A Republican state senator in Minnesota is proposing legislation to ensure that public colleges and universities adhere to their constitutional obligation to allow freedom of speech on campus. The bill would specifically forbid administrators from imposing restrictions on speech, ‘including ideas and opinions they find offensive,’ and would also outlaw so-called ‘free speech zones.'”

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: Gun Control Talk Continues, Mueller Eyes Jared, and Much, Much More. “The media continues to overlook the failure of the FBI to act upon a specific tip warning the agency that the Florida shooter was violent, armed and ready to shoot up his school, in favor of their own progressive political agenda.”

Never let a crisis go to waste, as the man said.

IN FREQUENCY OF MASS PUBLIC SHOOTINGS, the U.S. falls between France and Canada.

TET OFFENSIVE, VIETNAM 1968: Rocket attack on Da Nang.

CREDENTIALED BUT NOT EDUCATED, SMUG BUT NOT MORAL: The Atlantic: Witnessing the Collapse of the Global Elite. “What has happened here is the same phenomenon that explains so many of the ills of the last couple of decades: the algae-like bloom of elites and their simultaneous loss of substance.”

#METOO, NASHVILLE EDITION: Megan Barry’s lover Sgt Rob Forrest paid $53K more than other bodyguards combined. To be fair, he was providing more services.

The nice thing is, when you’re a female Democrat you can have an affair like this — at taxpayer expense — and a female columnist in the New York Times will womansplain how you’re the real victim here.

IT’S THE SPENDING, STUPID: Here Is Goldman’s Chart Showing Why The US Is Headed For “Banana Republic” Status.

Earlier today we discussed a report by Goldman Sachs which, when summarized, suggested that unless something significant changes in the coming years, the current US fiscal policy will lead to a debt catastrophe. In an unprecedented warning, the bank which spawned Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, ironically the architect behind Trump’s fiscal strategy, warned that “the continued growth of public debt raises eventual sustainability questions if left unchecked.”

It is worth highlighting that for Goldman to warn that the US fiscal and debt trajectory is unsustainable is quite unprecedented, especially since it is the bank’s former President and COO who has put the US on that path.

And while we urge readers to get acquainted with Goldman’s list of concerns, all of which are very troubling, there is one specific chart which lays out clearly why the US is now headed for “banana republic” status amid developed economies when it comes to US debt sustainability, or in this case lack thereof.

That chart is below, and it shows total projected US Federal Debt on one axis, and US interest expense as a % of GDP on the other. The result is the red dot in the top right.

This year, doing nothing more than paying the interest on the already-accumulated debt will consume nearly every dollar of revenue generated by corporate taxes, excise taxes, and tariffs. And we’re not many years away from the vig growing larger than the defense budget.

And this spending spree is absent an economic downturn or a shooting war with a near-peer adversary.

POINTS AND FIGURES: There Is Gold In The Crumbs.

Spending time with my wife’s family, I heard some stories about those crumbs.

They had an aunt who had never been married. There were seven grandchildren associated with this aunt. When this aunt passed away, she left $7000 apiece to each of the grandchildren. That’s just crumbs isn’t it? Only a pittance, 7G.

What’s interesting is the stories. One family member funded an IRA with it. She has money to retire. Two others used it as the down payment on a house. They rolled that investment into bigger houses and places for their families.

Those crumbs add up.

Even a small infusion of capital, intelligently deployed, can make a huge difference.

WHO NEEDS DISCIPLINE? Did the Progressive ‘Broward County Solution’ Cost 17 Student Lives? “Broward County used to lead the state of Florida in sending students to the state’s juvenile justice system. County leaders responded with a perfectly progressive solution: ‘lower arrests by not making arrests.’ . . . One particular motivation behind programs like Broward County’s was the pressure from multiple sources to reduce the statistical disparity between black and Hispanic student arrests on one hand and white and Asian student arrests on the other.”

Plus: “By virtue of his name alone, Nikolas de Jesús Cruz, the adopted son of Lynda and Roger Cruz, became a statistical Hispanic. As such, authorities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland had every reason not to report his troubling and likely criminal behavior to the police.”

CHANGE: Most Americans now support GOP tax law.

More money in your pocket will do that — money that the Democrats either voted against, derided as “crumbs,” or both.