• ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 25

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats

    How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.

     Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign 

    The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.

    The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

    The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.

     Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders

    Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.

    The news is here:

    A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.

    The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.

    While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.

    The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News

    Comment: National news media have not reported this news.

    Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets 

    Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):

    In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times

    Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.

    I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.

    The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.

    The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here (Reuters)

    Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.

    Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.

    The local Arizona paper features this headline: Flake’s retirement opens floodgates to potential GOP candidates (Tucson.com)

    All those candidates are pro-Trump, but some are from more traditional elements of the party, others from the Bannon wing.

    The paper also notes that a divisive primary and an open seat gives the Democrats a chance to win for the first time in years.

    China’s Xi reveals Communist Party leadership, buttresses his own position and refuses to name a successor (BBC)

    All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.

    Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.

    Today in campus lunacy: Univ of Illinois education prof attacks difficult mathematics courses as evidence of white privilege (Campus Reform)

    “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].

    Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:

    If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

    To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”

    Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.

    Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes?  This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.

    Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).

    I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the math-is-whiteness story

     

  • Government Debt and Political Hypocrisy (by both parties)

    I just read the comment of a Democratic friend who is shocked, shocked that Pres. Trump’s tax proposals will increase the US budget deficit.

    Factually, he’s right. So say all the static projections I’ve seen.

    But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

    My comment: US debt is a serious issue, but the political sparring is utterly hypocritical. It’s not just my Democratic friend. The Republicans are filling the air with their own false platitudes.

    Under Pres. Obama, US government debt doubled. We were not in a recession, as measured by economists, though we were coming out of a scary one.  During the Obama presidency, the economy was growing, albeit slowly.

    While Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were busy blowing up the budget, the Dems had only praise for “government investments” and “the stimulus effect.” As for the spiraling national debt, they were deaf, dumb, and blind. But they sure played a mean pinball.

     

    Here is the data from the (truly) non-partisan Center for a Responsibility Federal Budget, which does not lay all the blame on Pres. Obama.

    Not only were the totals substantially higher, they were substantially higher as a percentage of US GDP.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    The Sky Is Falling . . . or not

     

    At the time, Republicans strenuously complained, “The sky is falling.”

    Now, the shoe is on the other foot–and it is the other party complaining.

    And the rebuttals are coming from Republicans, not Democrats.

    It is the “party of fiscal responsibility” that is downplaying the impact of the tax cuts on national debt.

    Their main claim: “It’s all about growth.”

    The Democrats, who have never met a deficit they didn’t like, are complaining, “The sky is falling.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Democratic Complaints about Republican Deficits

    The Democrats’ complaints center on two issues.

    • First, the plan is Republican and the government is controlled by Republicans, not their own party. In this Congress, with this President, the Democrats’ attitude echoes Groucho Marx’s song, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

    • Second, the deficit will be caused by the government taking less money from citizens rather than the Democrats’ preferred way of running deficits: excess government spending.

    Both sides richly deserve the Claude Rains Medal for hypocrisy.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 17

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Biggest story of the week is just under the radar: China’s Xi is consolidating his power to become most powerful leader since Mao

    Comment: This week’s Party Congress, held every five years, is the moment when Xi will try to push aside many of the constraints installed after Mao to prevent one-man rule. He has already done a lot of that, installing his people in the military and using the anti-corruption campaign to remove adversaries (and leave political friends and family untouched).

    By the end of the week, we’ll know if Xi has succeeded since some rule-breaking will be obvious by then (particularly waiving a rule that would require his political enforcer to retire because of age).

     No Cigar for the Drug Czar: Nominee Tom Marino Withdraws after news reports he weakened an anti-opioid bill (Washington Post)

    The Washington Post/CBS 60 Minutes piece showed he not only weakened the bill, his office was very close to big pharma companies with interest in the legislation.

    Comment: The swift move by Trump was inevitable after the report, given Trump’s focus on the Washington Swamp and the importance of opioid issues to the country and especially to his base.

     FBI Uncovered Russian Bribery Plot Before Obama Administration Approved Controversial Nuclear Deal with Moscow (The Hill)

    • Clintons were involved
    • The FBI kept it all under wraps

    Before the deal was approved

    The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

    Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

    They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill. –John Solomon and Alison Spann in The Hill

    Austria’s new leader: very young (31), very opposed to floods of new immigrants (x)

    NYT headline: Austria Shifts Right as Refashioned Conservatives Win. Socialists finished third, slightly behind nationalist-populist “Freedom Party”

    Under Mr. Kurz, the staid, traditionally conservative People’s Party was refashioned into a social-media-savvy political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters in a campaign focused on limiting immigration and strengthening the country’s social welfare system.

    Kurz will need to form a coalition government.

    The most likely coalition partner appeared to be the nationalist, populist Freedom Party, which initial results showed winning 27.1 percent of the vote. The party complained during the election campaign that Mr. Kurz had stolen its playbook, seizing on issues like limits to immigration and the threat posed to Austrian identity by Islam.–New York Times

    North Korea warns that “nuclear war could break out at any moment” (Bloomberg)

    Comment: Kim Jong Un’s desire for a deliverable nuclear arsenal is comprehensible as a defense for his regime. These kinds of threats are not comprehensible–or are badly misjudged. Presumably, they are trying to move the US off any military option. But Kim’s statements do highlight the very real danger of accident or inadvertent escalation.

     Trump and McConnell show unity . . . at least for now

    The New York Times story is here.

    Comment: It is all tactical, and it’s all about the tax reform bill, which is essential politically for Republicans on the Hill.

    They will also look for other areas to notch some wins, including judicial nominees, which have moved far too slowly through the Senate, as conservatives see it. Democrats have used every delaying tactic on the nominees and Republicans have let them get away with it.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    Clarice Feldman for the FBI-Russia story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 13

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Very good economic news, twice over

    Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.

    The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.

    U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.

    Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today

    Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.

    Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests

    He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.

    The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.

    Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.

    If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

    As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.

    No improvement in the horrific California wildfires. Death toll above 30 and expected to rise (Los Angeles Times)

    15 fires have burned over 200k acres so far.

    Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines

    Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.

    Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.

    Conservatives are furious at Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans for the very slow pace at which Trump appointees are approved (Daily Signal)

    Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.

    But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 6

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Leaks that Pres. Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal

    That action doesn’t kill the multilateral deal, but it does begin a process that could.

    When Trump makes his formal decision about Iran’s behavior, as he is required to do periodically by law, the Congress will then have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.

    Comment: The issue is complicated because (1) the agreement is multilateral and most other signatories want to stay in, (2) Obama front-loaded nearly all the benefits for Iran, among the most incompetent negotiating moves ever, and (3) the agreement does not limit Iran’s deadly, malevolent action in other areas, including missile tests (another major shortcoming).

    Obama, Susan Rice, and John Kerry thought that Iran’s financial windfall would make them a more responsible actor.

    That magical thinking is best captured by a Yiddish phrase:

    More nasty weather headed our wayTropical Storm Nate could cause flooding in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (NOLA.com)

    It is expected to hit late Saturday night.

    Comment: The Mississippi Gulf Coast has no protection, but New Orleans has wetlands to the south, which ought to afford some protection. Unfortunately, those wetlands–and the protection they afford–have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to canals cut for pipelines and ships. The water moving through those cuts has changed the local ecology and harmed the wetlands.

    Harvey Weinstein, film mogul and, according to interviews in the NYT, perpetrator of serial sexual harassment against actresses and employees

    The New York Times broke the story as an exclusive, with vivid details and on-the-record accusations (link here).

    Now, all the other news outlets are on the case.

    BuzzFeed reports that Weinstein, a major player in national Democratic politics, is relying on key Clinton and Obama aides to cope with the fallout. (link here)

    Normally, Gloria Allred appears as a plaintiff’s lawyer in the harassment cases, beginning with a huge press conference.

    But that doesn’t happen when the allegations are against a major Democrat. Actually, Gloria’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, is involved–working for Weinstein and, she says, trying to educate him that “times have changed.”

    Allred offered a half-hearted comment, saying she “would have declined” because she never represents people accused of harassment, only alleged victims. She offered no criticism of Mr. Weinstein.

    Comment: Expect gloating and finger pointing from Republicans, who are happy to gain a moment’s relief from their own scandal, an anti-abortion Congressman who is resigning after texts surfaced, urging his mistress to terminate her pregnancy.

     After Las Vegas, Republicans open to banning “bump stocks” used to convert semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic ones (New York Times)

    The NRA seems open to some regulation, as well.

    Comment: Because passing a law would take time, many are urging the ATF to change its regulatory interpretation. That’s passing the buck–and evading what should be a Congressional and Presidential responsibility. We’ve gotten so used to passing everything by Presidential decree or bureaucratic regulations, even Republican congressmen want to avoid the normal, constitutional process for changing our laws.

    Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (D) is facing a tough reelection in a Republican-leaning state. Now, he gotten more bad news: a non-partisan report rates him the least effective Democrat in the Senate (Indianapolis Star)

    Even when Democrats were in the majority, he accomplished almost nothing, they say.

    Comment: His prospective Republicans opponents were shocked, shock, and appalled. “Indiana needs….”

     Nobel Prizes

    • Literature: Kuzuo Ishiguro, author of “Remains of the Day”
    • Chemistry: 3 scientists who improved images of molecules
    • Physics: 3 scientists who detected gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s
    • Medicine: 3 scientists who discovered the genes regulating the body’s biological clock

    One of the winners in Medicine, Jeffrey Hall (emeritus, Brandeis) said that he collaborated with a Brandeis colleague, Michael Roshbash, because they shared common interests in “sports, rock and roll, beautiful substances and stuff.” He quit science ten years ago, he said at the time, because his grant funding ran out, the grant-review process was corrupt and biased, and he was fed up with academia. (story here)

    Comment: Looks like he was proven right about the bias.

    The Peace Prize will be given Friday. If they can find an innocent child or a do-gooder organization, fine. Otherwise, they should remember that they gave one to Arafat. They might want to think about what’s happening in Myanmar, either, since the country is headed by another Peace Prize winner and is now driving Rohingya Muslims out of the country.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 5

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ We continue to learn more about Las Vegas shooting but still don’t know motive

    Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the shooter also hit aviation fuel tanks. Two bullets hit the tanks at the nearby airport, one penetrating the tank. No fire.

    The gunman also rented rooms overlooking other outdoor music festivals, including one in Chicago, but did not occupy those rooms.

    Comment: If he fired only twice at the fuel tanks, then they were not a major target. Still, the fact that one bullet penetrated the tanks and could have caused a conflagration is deeply disturbing.

    We don’t know if the fact that the gunman did not attack the other venues he scouted indicates only his methodical preparation or something about his motivation to attack one kind of concert-goer and not another. For example, one concert had rap-music stars so an attack would have immediately focused on racist motives. Perhaps he did not want such speculation. In any event, we simply don’t know the answers yet and may never know them.

    Las Vegas sheriff says the killer led a ‘secret life’ before attack and had “some help at some point” in pulling off Sunday’s massacre (Fox News)

    Mia Bloom, a prominent scholar working on terrorism, makes two important points. First, the girlfriend’s cooperation indicates she was never part of the conspiracy; in cases where the girlfriends did know, they refused to cooperate. Second, she sees no evidence of ISIS involvement at this point, only wannabe credit.

    Comment: I know Prof. Bloom and take her judgments very seriously.

     “Bump stocks” 

    Bump stocks are off-the-shelf kits to convert semi-automatic weapons, which can be purchased legally, into fully-automatic weapons, which cannot.

    Here is the New York Times useful description:

    Twelve of the rifles the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting had in his 32nd-floor hotel room were each modified with a “bump stock,” an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster.

    The device replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger. –NYT

    Analysis:

    • Illegal: A machine-gun (fully-automatic)
    • Legal: Semi-Automatic
    • Legal: Bump stock to convert semi- into machine-gun
    • Hence, you can legally (and easily) create a weapon that is illegal to purchase

    Why are bump-stocks legal? Because the ATF rules that bump stocks were legal under current law. The ruling came during the Obama Administration so it was not the result of White House pressure.

    Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is leading a Congressional effort to make sales of bump-stocks illegal. His effort has bipartisan support–even pro-gun Congressmen say they are willing to have a discussion. We don’t yet know the depth of that support. (Washington Post article here.)

    Breaking news: NRA supports “regulations” on bump stocks (Washington Times)

    Unclear if they intend to support a complete ban.

    Comment: One of the most depressing things I have heard in this whole shocking affair was Kinzinger saying that the ATF should simply change its ruling because that would be faster than passing a law.

    Speed in changing this rule is very important–and may be decisive in this case.

    Still, it was depressing to hear an elected US official saying that a bureaucracy, not Congress, should act on what should be enacted by law.

    San Juan mayor, in a fight with Trump, dons ‘nasty’ shirt for TV interview (Fox News)

     

    Comment: And she picked a really tough interviewer, as you can see.

    Carmen Yulin Cruz has decided her political future is better by “going big” in her fight with Trump. It will build support for her on the island, at least initially, and divert attention from her own inept performance.

    Anybody–anybody at all–think Trump will quietly ignore this?

     

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, September 30

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward

    Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.

    So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.

    We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.

    Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.

    Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone. 

    Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.

    Mike Pence protégé, Seema Verma, seen as frontrunner to replace Price: She has deep experience running government health care programs (New York Post)

    Verma currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act.

    Verma led Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid when Pence was governor.

    Comment: Experience is essential. HHS has 80,000 employees and a $1 trillion budget.

    Indiana has been one of the three or four best-run state governments for two decades or more. Running programs there is high praise. Running them in Illinois normally leads to indictment.

    Victor Davis Hanson on “A Lying Quartet”: The Obama Officials who Surveilled their Political Opponents (American Greatness)

    The names are familiar:

    Susan Rice
    James Clapper
    John Brennan
    James Comey

    With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.

    Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.

    So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson

    Colin Kaepernick: Imperfect Messenger. Donated $25,000 to group named after convicted cop killer who broke out of jail and fled to Cuba (Daily Mail)

    Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.

    Comment #2Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Kaepernick story 

    ◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 20

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela 

    It combined two main elements:

    1. A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
    2. Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order

    The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.

    He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.”  He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).

    He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

    His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.

    Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.

    As CNN put it, “No American President has ever spoken to the world like this,” calling terrorists and some nations “evil.”

    The best comment about the speech came from

     

    Rich Lowery in the National Review Online:

    As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.

     Two natural disasters: 

    1. Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
    2. Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.

    Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.

    Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.

    Republicans on the hill embrace big tax cuts, even if they increase the deficit (New York Times)

    Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

    The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.

    Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.

    Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.

    Former Chicago cop, wanted for shaking down drug dealers, has been arrested in Detroit after 15 years on the run (Chicago Tribune)

    He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.

    Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week

    They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)

    This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.

    NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.

    When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum

    Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:

    President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes

    The MEF report on the incident is here.

    Paul Manafort wants investigations of leaks, which may have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s office, which is trying to rachet up the pressure on Manafort (Reuters)

    “If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].

    “The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.

    The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters

    Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, September 19

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Trump’s campaign manager wiretapped. That’s a big deal.

    The story was broken by CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman, starting in 2014 and continuing, off an on, until this year. The tap, authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), would include periods when he was known to speak with Donald Trump. (Manafort also owned an apartment in Trump Tower; that might be relevant because Trump spoke of wiretaps in Trump Tower.)

    There is increasingly strong public speculation that Manafort will be indicted by Robert Mueller’s office.

    At this point, we do not know who the FISA warrant(s) targeted.

    Comment: At this point, we simply don’t know enough about this surveillance. (In fact, the information released to CNN was almost certainly a felony violation of secret proceedings.)

    • Anti-Trump people think the fact that a federal judge would authorize surveillance on such a senior figure in the Trump campaign suggests something very bad was afoot and that collaboration with the Russians may have been Manafort’s aim (if not necessarily that of others in the campaign).
    • Pro-Trump people think this information vindicates his repeated claims that he was wiretapped.
    • And, of course, a lot of people, myself included, want to know more before they reach a conclusion.

    I think a lot of people will agree with Dan Drezner (a centrist and no friend of Trump’s):

    Trump at the UN: Very tough talk. Threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea, calls Kim “rocket man,” and labels Iran a “rogue nation” (New York Times)

    He included terms he had seldom used recently: “radical Islamic terrorism.”

    The full speech is available here on YouTube.

    Comment: Trump’s speech was an unusually blunt, full-throated defense of America’s interests, as opposed to globalism, and included particularly sharp and detailed attacks on Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

    Critical responses to the speech line up as expected.

    More censorship calls on campus, this time because a professor wrote a scholarly article called “The Case for Colonialism” 

    The article, by Prof. Bruce Gilley of Portland State, was published in a peer-reviewed journal that is very anti-colonial, which presumably thought the piece was serious, well-researched, and would spark scholarly debate. The basic argument does not deny the evils of colonialism but says they must be balanced against the benefits and that anti-colonialism has itself carried high costs.

    Recently, Gilley publicly resigned from the American Political Science Association for its ideological bias.

    Here’s the report at Legal Insurrection.

    Comment: Given the political climate on today’s campuses, especially those on the coasts, what Gilley’s article sparked was not discussion but calls for him to be fired, censured, and tarred-and-feathered.

    Will the End of Syria’s civil war spell disaster in Europe as battle-hardened terrorist fighters return? (BESA Center)

    Mordechai Kedar says “yes” and adds that Iran has now effectively taken over Syria, strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and given a free hand to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

    Comment: Iran’s expansion across the region was facilitated by the Obama administration and will cause death and destruction for years to come.

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