• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 8

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     What to expect when you’re expecting Comey: A brief comment 

    Comment: It will be extremely difficult for Comey to drop a bombshell that is not a suicide bomb.

    He was legally obligated to report obstruction and would likely have resigned. He mentioned some concerns to colleagues, but nothing approaching obstruction.

    His prepared remarks do not allege obstruction, either. They simply say Trump demanded “loyalty.”

    That could be interpreted as pressure, or not, but it’s not obstruction. And the intel agency chiefs testified Wednesday they had not been interfered with for political or personal reasons.

    Second, it is hard to question witnesses seriously in the rotating format of public committees. If you really wanted information, you would turn it over to a skilled lawyer for each side, who would question and follow up.

    Third, the two parties are now painted into corners on this. The Republicans, though cautious about Trump, will defend him against Comey unless the evidence is overwhelming. It isn’t. The Democrats are now all obstruction, all the time, and their base loves it.

    Neither side is searching for evidence. They are searching for talking points.

    They will treat the testimony like a Rorschach test, seeing in it whatever preconceived mental images they have.

    Comey is out for revenge, and he’ll do his best to bloody-up Trump (while trying to appear calm, restrained and judicial). He may do some damage, but only Maxine Waters and her ilk will think its enough.

    The biggest damage to Trump always comes from the guy in the mirror.

     Speaking of the FBI: Trump will nominate Christopher Wray as the Bureau’s next Director  (Washington Post)

    He comes with plenty of experience. Currently in private practice, the graduate of Yale and Yale Law headed the DOJ’s Criminal Division during the George W. Bush administration.

    A retired FBI agent, with 28 years service in the Bureau, emailed me to endorse the appointment:

    Although I’ve favored the selection of someone from inside the FBI as a succeeding Director in the past, that was not an option in the current selection process.

    I’ve never been sold on that idea and preferred to open the appointment process to the best man . . . for the job, and in the cases of Judge William Webster and Robert Mueller I think they served the FBI very effectively, respectfully and professionally as “outsiders” during their tenures as Director of the FBI. Both stayed out of the limelight, projected a positive image and never embarrassed the FBI.

    [Turning to the selection of Christopher Wray, who I do not know] I think he will be an excellent fit for the FBI. He appears to be a Director who will be committed to focusing on the primary mission of the FBI and avoiding the kind of issues and faulty judgment that resulted in James Comey’s shortened tenure. –Jack Keller, retired FBI special agent

    Comment: I am grateful to Mr. Keller for his comments and his service.

     Britain votes today. Polls are notoriously bad there, but, as the locals say, “the punters favour Theresa May”

    All 650 Members of Parliament are up for election as well. So, the question is not only whether May wins, but whether she retains a majority big enough to govern.

    Her final appeal was to “patriotic Labour” voters. (Guardian)

    Comment: Here’s hoping. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is everything execrable about the Europe left, cozying up to terrorists, proposing ever-larger governments, and, in Corbyn’s case, even talking about renationalizing some industries. If the Brits vote for him, they will be mostly voting against the status quo. Bad as things are, they could always get worse. And with Corbyn, they would.

     North Korea keeps launching missiles; even the new leftist government of South Korea complains (ABC)

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who has expressed a desire to reach out to Pyongyang, said during a National Security Council meeting he “won’t back off even a single step and make any compromise” on the issue of national security. He warned that North Korea could only face further international isolation and more economic difficulties.

    The North’s missile tests present a difficult challenge to Moon.North Korea, which could have a working nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile in the next several years, may also be the most urgent foreign policy concern for the Trump administration. –ABC

    Comment: South Korea’s Moon has said that the US cannot install new anti-missile systems there (a concession to China), but can keep the ones already there.

     In more amusing news, North Korea has criticized Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate deal  (Huffington Post)

    Instead of ridiculing the gall of Pyongyang’s statement, the HuffPo headlines it positively, sayings “Even North Korea Thinks Donald Trump’s Decision to Quit Paris Deal ‘Short-Sighted'”

    Comment: Whether Trump’s decision is short-sighted or not, the HuffPo should never dignify any statement by North Korea’s murderous regime with such a headline.

     Amazon offers a discounted version of Prime to attract low-income shoppers  It will be half-price for people with government benefit cards. (Business Insider)

    Amazon doesn’t necessarily need a huge swell of lower-income shoppers to join Prime for the effort to pay off. Even if Amazon were to get a tiny fraction of them hooked on Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on millions of items, it could pay off in the long run because Prime customers are highly loyal. –Business Insider

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 4

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     England’s third major terror attack in 10 weeks raises fundamental questions about how to prevent these assaults

    Comment: Kudos to the London police for their immediate response. It was swift, sure, and effective. 8 minutes from first incident to squads arriving in force. Their swift action prevented countless additional casualties.

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    The problem is how to prevent these attacks, both in the short run (surveillance, arrests, etc.) and long run (tougher restrictions on immigration and rethinking the obvious failure to integrate the communities into the liberal west).

    All Europe is facing a high threat from Islamic extremists, many (like the Manchester bomber) born in the very Western countries they are terrorizing.

    As ISIS is squeezed abroad, they will try to revive their organization by killing in Europe.

    Ordinary Europeans will refuse to live in perpetual terror and demand answers from their failing political leaders.

     US media reported the London attack, wall-to-wall, but buried one aspect of the story. Any guesses? You are correct.

    I explain the MSM’s fecklessness, and illustrate it concretely, in a separate post, here. I call it PC BS.

     In happier news, one of baseball’s all-time greats, Albert Pujols become the 9th player to hit 600 homers. (ESPN) The cherry on top: it was a grand slam. Another cherry: it comes in the post-steroid era. His head and arms actually look human. 

     Japan holds evacuation drills as North Korea’s nuclear program advances  (Reuters)

    Comment: The Japanese navy is also conducting joint exercises with the US fleet.

    My sense is that the Chinese are playing rope-a-dope, doing a little to slow down Pyongyang but not nearly enough. That is simply unsustainable for the US and Japan.

     Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell hopeful on tax cuts, less so on healthcare  (Reuters)

    Comment: Tax reform is essential, and the Republicans know it, not just for the economy but for their reelection.

    On healthcare, the pressure in late autumn, when next year’s premium notices go out, will be enormous. Obamacare is melting down, and that means suffering. The Republicans will point at Obama and the D’s. But that won’t cut it. People elected the R’s to fix it.

     California progressives really, really want single-payer, and they want their state to provide it. (Fortune)

    The state Senate, with a big Democratic majority, passed it easily. They skipped over the pesky problem of paying for it. (Honestly, they did absolutely nothing about funding it.)

    How expensive would it be? $400 billion. That’s huge. More than twice as big as the entire state budget today.

    No one knows if the State Assembly will pass it or if Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it.

    Naturally, they would need to heft tax hikes to pay for it, but economic studies show there is still a big shortfall. (ABC News)

    Comment: The leading Democratic contender for Governor, Gavin Newsom (former mayor of S.F.), put on his tin-foil hat and strongly backed the single-payer plan.

     Another “can you top this” in college crazies: Black students at Evergreen State U. in Olympia, WA, demand all white people leave the campus for a day.  (Washington Post) 

    Their demands managed to close the entire school for a day.

    For some reason, not everyone thought this white-leave-campus thing was a good idea.

    One long-time progressive, Prof. Bret Weinstein, did not favor it. And he didn’t like the students’ demands that new academic hires deemphasize academic ability and focus on race/gender/undocumented/social justice/etc.

    As you can imagine, those opposed to Weinstein were not looking for a debate.

    The were looking for blood.

    In fact, the other professors at Evergreen State also turned on Weinstein. (National Review Online)

    It’s so nasty, so crazy that even the NYT’s Frank Bruni writes a column against it. Naturally, he begins by condemning the US, thus establishing his bona fides as a morally superior person, but he still doesn’t like the ideas out in Olympia. It’s a strong column–and one the NYT readership needed to see.

    There are names for people like Frank Bruni. Fascist. Racist. Sexist. Columnist.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Siegler
     and Tom Wyckoff for the Frank Bruni column.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 3

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Sec. of Defense James Mattis calls North Korea “a clear and present danger,” not just to America but to the world (AP via Washington Post)

    Significantly, Mattis made the speech in Asia.

    More bad news: On Friday, China blocked US-supported sanctions against North Korea at the UN Security Council.

    North Korea is accelerating its push to acquire a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States and other nations, and the U.S. regards this as a “clear and present danger,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.

    Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, Mattis said the Trump administration is encouraged by China’s renewed commitment to working with the U.S. and others to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. He also said he thinks China, which is North Korea’s closest ally, ultimately will see it as a liability. –Washington Post

    Mattis gave mixed reviews to US relations with China:

    “We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo” in the South China Sea, he said.

    Overall, Mattis’ speech struck a positive, hopeful tone for cooperation and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, where he and his predecessors have made it a priority to nurture and strengthen alliances and partnerships.

    “While competition between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable,” he said. “Our two countries can and do cooperate for mutual benefit. We will pledge to work closely with China where we share common cause.”

    He was, however, unrelentingly critical of North Korea, a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the United States as a military threat, in part because of periodic U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which the North sees as preparations for attacks aimed at destroying its ruling elite. –Washington Post

    Comment: The US is turning up the temperature on both China and North Korea.

     Comey’s upcoming testimony

    Comment: The ABC story is reported by Captain Obvious

     Early Trump administration was preparing to ease Russia sanctions, but was blocked by US diplomats who went to Congress  That’s what NBC is reporting, with retired diplomats going on the record.

     Three former top execs at Penn State given jail time for failing to act on reports of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky (ESPN)

    Comment: By failing to do their jobs, they put more children in danger. 

     Kathy Griffin has decided that she’s the victim. “Trump broke me” (CBS)

    Comment: She’s disgusting.

     LA Times covers for her. Their Headline: She’s “tearful but resilient”

    Comment: They’re disgusting

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for June 1

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Oddly, no new scandal today.

    No terrible new allegations or fierce rebuttals.

    No new leaks from the intelligence agencies.

    Makes me wonder if the internet is down in Washington.

     House Intel Committee Issues Subpoenas to Unmask Obama’s Unmaskers (Real Clear Politics)

    Some familiar names, but one new and important one: Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador who previously served on the National Security Council.  No one had mentioned her before, though Trey Gowdy may have hinted at her in a cryptic question last week.

    House investigators told [James Rosen at] Fox News they are now devoting more scrutiny to Power, and they have come to see her role in the unmasking as ‘larger than previously known.’ Allegedly eclipsing the others named. –Real Clear Politics

    Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was also named in the subpoenas.

     Comey will testify in public next week.

    The Democrats think of him as a White Knight, riding to the rescue.

    Republicans think of him as the Knight Who Says Ni. 

    Comment: Comey thinks of himself a

    • a white knight
    • who has done absolutely everything right and nothing wrong in his public life, and
    • is now in the fight to redeem his reputation, which, he thinks,
    • will require him to destroy Trump
    • without saying that he, Comey, failed to report obstruction of justice, as he was required to do.

    This is going to be nasty, very nasty.

     Paris Climate Discord: Trump could pull US out of it this week, as he promised during the campaign.

    The New York Times has a primer on the accord itself.

    The opposition is well framed in the op-ed in the WaPo: If Trump quits the Paris climate accord, he will lead the U.S. into the wilderness

    If the United States withdraws from the accord, it would find itself in farcically lonely company. The pact was signed by 195 countries, with only Nicaragua and Syria bowing out. . . . Some climate experts actually suggest that, given Trump’s steady dismantling of environmental protections, it’s better for the United States to leave the pact altogether than to undermine it from within.

    The other effect of a withdrawal: the disappearance of U.S. leadership on a fundamental issue affecting the future of the planet. –Washington Post op-ed

    A pro-Trump take, from the Washington Examiner: “Trump could rally GOP, reward voters with Paris Agreement exit”

    Comment: There has been a ferocious fight among Trump’s White House advisers, but it looks like the “pull out” side won.

     China sees an opening in relations with Germany after Merkel’s spat with Trump  (New York Times)

    India is also visiting Berlin.

    Comment: Germany is playing a larger global role these days. But that role will be limited unless it can round up support from other Europeans for a collective effort.

    Robert Lieber has just published a brief post on ZipDialog voicing skepticism that the Europeans really can come together. (Lieber post here.

     Solar Energy Storage systems are getting smaller, cheaper, better, allowing some solar homes to begin disconnecting from the grid (Deutsche Welle)

    Comment: Batteries and storage have been the bottleneck for a long time, and a major focus of research. Progress has been steady, but still far short of consumer needs.

     Lebanon bans new Wonder Woman movie because the lead is an Israeli actress (BBC)

    Lots of Lebanese viewers want to see it but, as one upset potential customer puts it, “a vocal minority” was against.

    Comment: Yep. The kind of vocal minority whose movie critic blows up the theater.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Memorial Day, May 29

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Memorial Day should be about more than bar-b-q and store-wide sales. It is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. May their memories forever be a blessing.

     After Trump leaves, Merkel tells Europe it cannot rely on ‘others.’ She means the United States  (Washington Post)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

    It was the toughest review yet of Trump’s trip to Europe, which inflamed tensions rather than healed them after the U.S. president sparred with the leaders of Washington’s closest and oldest allies on trade, defense and climate change.

    Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, told a packed beer hall rally in Munich that the days when her continent could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.” –Washington Post

    Comment: Merkel was grumpy about Trump publicly demanding NATO’s European partners pay their fair share. Germany has been a special target.

    He also publicly criticized Merkel, repeatedly during the campaign, about her catastrophic decision to throw open German borders to huge numbers of unvetted refugees from the Middle East. Really bad idea, and he called her out on it.

    And now she is grumpy and telling Europe to go it alone, or at least rely on itself (without the US) a lot more.

    So, here’s are the two big problems.

    First, there is no indication that Europeans actually want to pay for their own defense.

    Second, this Europe-on-its-own would inevitably be led by its richest, most powerful state: Germany.

    Europe’s experience with German leadership has not been a happy one. Nobody summarizes that experience better Norm Macdonald in these 90 seconds:

     Immigrant Rights groups are not happy with the head of Homeland Security. Not happy at all.  (Washington Times)

    Immigrant-rights groups were left steaming after Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said most of the illegal immigrant children who streamed into the U.S. in recent years were “a huge scam,” abusing lax policies to gain a foothold here.

    Mr. Kelly also said the families in Central America and here in the U.S. who orchestrated the dangerous journeys were guilty of “human trafficking” of their own children. . . .

    He was tapping into a fierce debate between security advocates and immigrant-rights activists in recent years. –Washington Times

     North Korea tests yet another missile (New York Times)

    The Pentagon is moving urgently to test a long-distance anti-missile system, one that has failed about half the time.

    Comment: W Trump is still relying on China to put pressure on Pyongyang, but either Beijing is not doing enough or lacks the leverage. 

    The US is moving more naval assets to the region. I should also sanction any bank or other institution (most of them in China) that has anything to do with North Korea.

     Oil prices sinking again. Now below $50  (Bloomberg)

    Bloomberg thinks the markets doubt OPEC cutbacks will stick.

    Comment: Fracking costs are also coming down as technology improves.

    Lower energy prices are like a tax cut for consumers.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 25

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Now, the Brits are hunting in Libya for some members of the Manchester terror cell.

    They’ve already made a half-dozen arrests, including the bomber’s brother, in the UK  (New York Times)

    Officials were looking into reports that people who knew Mr. Abedi — including an imam at his mosque — had contacted the authorities as early as 2015 with concerns that he may have been recruited by extremists. –New York Times

    Comment: The police, overwhelmed with tips, sometimes drop the ball. That’s always disturbing, but it would be more disturbing if they shied away for PC reasons. That’s been a problem for UK police. Here, for example, is the Manchester police apologizing for a 2016 training exercise that resembled an Islamist attack.

     Meanwhile, UK officials are furious that the NYT published secret information about the crime (BBC) The UK had shared it with the US. The Brits believes the leakers were US police, not the White House.

     Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter running circles around the MSM, this time on Obama Administration illegal spying on Americans

    How bad was it? Bad enough that the lap dog FISA court judges were infuriated by the deceit and illegal action.

     Congressional Budget Office says Trump-Ryan health plan will be budget neutral but leave 23 million more uninsured over a decade (Associated Press)

    The report said older people with lower income would disproportionately lose coverage. Over half of those becoming uninsured, 14 million people, would come from the bill’s $834 billion in cuts to Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor and disabled people, over 10 years. –AP

    Comment: These numbers are disturbing but it compares this bill to Obamacare on the assumption that the ACA will survive. It won’t. It’s melting down and to save it would cost trillions.

     Mike Flynn has clammed up, but Paul Manafort has given Congressional investigators his documents related to Russian contacts (Washington Post)

    ◆ Richard Friedman on NATO’s purpose today (ZipDialog post)

     Who controls the South China Sea? China claims it, but it is an international waterway, and the US ensures it. The US navy sends occasional ships through to make sure it is open. Now, the US navy is conducting its first such operation of the Trump presidency. (CNN)

     Today in PC lunacy: White women’s burrito shop is forced to close after being hounded with accusations it was ‘culturally appropriating Mexican food and jobs’ (Daily Mail) In Portland, naturally.

    Comment: The city will give up Hindu-Arabic numerals when they discover they were invented in South Asia in the 6th or 7th century  and stolen from those poor folks. (Britannica)

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Fred Lawson
     for the Manchester police apology
    ◆ Tim Favero and Tom Elia for the burrito story; they clearly know me!

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, May 23

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Britain is now on the highest terror alert, with the military deployed.

    Complex terror operations like the one in Manchester are not executed by one man in his early 20s. The race is on to find the rest of the cell before they strike again.

     Crocodile tears from Europe’s clueless politicians. That’s what Bruce Bawer sees in the aftermath of Manchester. He’s furious about a political class that has casually invited a jihad into Europe

    His commentary on the Manchester slaughter is entitled: “Enabling Murder: Western politicians worry more about being called “Islamophobic” than they do about stopping jihadist slaughter” (City Journal)

    He quotes some of the European pols saying how sad they were and then blows them away:

    Meaningless words, all of them. But Angela Merkel takes the cake: “People in the UK can rest assured that Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with them.” Well, isn’t that . . . reassuring. In what way do such words help anybody to “rest assured” of anything? In any case, how dare she? This, after all, is the woman who opened the floodgates—the woman who, out of some twisted sense of German historical guilt, put European children in danger by inviting into the continent masses of unvetted people from the very part of the world where this monstrous evil has its roots. –Bruce Bawer in City Journal

    He concludes with a fierce, dead-on criticism:

    Today, British leaders refuse to deport imams who preach murder but ban from their shores respected writers and knowledgeable critics of Islam who dare to take on those imams and their theology.

    Strength? Don’t you dare speak of strength. You have the blood of innocent children on your hands.

    Comment: Bawer knows it all first-hand. A cultural critic and poet, he moved from America to Europe two decades ago and soon began writing about the hostility he and his gay partner faced from Muslims there, as well as their intolerance toward Westernized women, Jews, and secular law. He has become a vigorous and much-published critic of multiculturalism, which he sees as a disastrously failed experiment. He now lives in Norway. 

     “Obama intel agency secretly conducted illegal searches on Americans for years” That’s the story from Circa, where John Solomon and Sara Carter’s reporting has run circles around the somnolent MSM. To quote Solomon and Carter, who have seen the classified internal reports:

    The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.

    More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa. . . .

    The normally supportive [FISA] court excoriated Obama administration officials. –Circa

    Comment: Why did the Obama administration reveal it at all? My guess: less CYA than telling the FISA Court about it to prevent the Trump Administration from doing the same illegal spying, perhaps on their political enemies. This whole thing is a very nasty piece of work.

     Why the “secular stagnation” of the economy? Nobel economist Robert Schiller, who predicted the housing bubble, has an idea (Here

    His thoughts center on two fears: that jobs are being replaced by technology and that the deep recession of 2008 could recur. Schiller writes:

    My own theory about today’s stagnation focuses on growing angst about rapid advances in technologies that could eventually replace many or most of our jobs, possibly fueling massive economic inequality. People might be increasingly reluctant to spend today because they have vague fears about their long-term employability – fears that may not be uppermost in their minds when they answer consumer-confidence surveys. If that is the case, they might increasingly need stimulus in the form of low interest rates to keep them spending.

    A perennial swirl of good news after a crisis might instill a sort of bland optimism, without actually eliminating the fear of another crisis in the future. –Robert Schiller

     Israel and the Palestinians: Is there any possibility for a settlement?

    One of the most interesting analyses I’ve read comes from Israeli Col. Eran Lerman, writing at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He situates the Israel-Palestinian problem within the larger diplomatic alignment against Iran, led by Trump and the Saudis (reversing Obama’s tilt toward Iran).

    President Trump’s efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table are taking place against the background of a broader effort to recast US policy in the region. The memory of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s failed effort, back in 1981, to put together a regional “strategic consensus” against the Soviets may have faded, but the idea behind it is making a comeback. Facing the Iranian revolutionary regime and its proxies on the one hand and radical Sunni versions of Islamist totalitarianism on the other, key regional players are now more open than ever to an informal US-led alliance against their common enemies. The semblance, perhaps even the substance, of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front can facilitate this; but even more important would be a firm policy on Iran.

    Comment: Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is still a very long shot, partly because Hamas and Iran would do everything possible to undermine it, partly because any Palestinian political leaders who made the concessions essential to peace would have great difficulty surviving it, much less implementing it effectively.  

     Does good news ever come from Iran? No. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reports:

    Iranians Re-Elect a Fake Reformer in a Fake Election

    Rouhani was the lesser of two evils, but Westerners vastly overestimate what an Iranian president can do. –Bloomberg

     Moody’s downgrades China, warning of mounting debts, weakening finances  (Reuters)

    It’s the first time China has been downgraded in 30 years.

    The one-notch downgrade in long-term local and foreign currency issuer ratings, to A1 from Aa3, comes as the Chinese government grapples with the challenges of rising financial risks stemming from years of credit-fueled stimulus.

    “The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the rating agency said in a statement, changing its outlook for China to stable from negative. –Reuters

    Comment: If China’s economy continues to slow, the global ramifications will be vast. And the regime will worry more about hanging on to power.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Baehr
     for the Bruce Bawer article
    ◆ Tom Elia for the Circa article on spying
    ◆ BESA for Lerman article on Israel-Palestine

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, May 21

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Well, knock me over with a feather.

    Now that Comey has been fired, he has decided Trump really was trying to influence him  (CNN)

    Former FBI Director James Comey now believes that President Donald Trump was trying to influence his judgment about the Russia probe, a person familiar with his thinking says, but whether that influence amounts to obstruction of justice remains an open question.

    “You have to have intent in order to obstruct justice in the criminal sense,” the source said, adding that “intent is hard to prove.” –CNN

     

     Finally, somebody likes Trump: the Saudis. Partly, it’s Trump. Partly, it’s joy over Obama leaving

    The WaPo doesn’t put it like that, but the Saudi King came out in 110 degree heat to greet the President. No Saudi King did that for BHO.

    Comment: Why? Because they thought Obama had tilted away from them and toward Iran. 

     I love these success stories: Myron Rolle, former NFL safety and Rhodes Scholar, gets degree in neurosurgery  (Fox)

    The medical degree is from Florida State, his residency will be at Harvard’s Mass General.

     Smart, thoughtful article by a student who turned down her “dream college” because it was too expensive.

    Emma Krupp, now a junior at another school, is thriving and, despite regrets, is glad she didn’t mortgage her future. It’s an uplifting article, not a bittersweet one.  (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: It’s an uplifting article, not a bittersweet one. I took two things away from it. The first is how mature Ms. Krupp is in recognizing that life is filled with trade-offs. She wanted to go into a career in journalism without a huge debt burden, but doing so required her to turn down one of the country’s top J-Schools. Second, it reinforces the need for donors to keep helping universities with student scholarships. America has always been a country of private generosity and still is. College students need that help–with scholarships, paid internships in the summer, and more.

     The Democrats keep lurching left, aggressively booing DNC Chair Tom Perez at California Convention (Sacramento Bee)

    State Democrats’ three-day convention had a raucous start Friday, as liberal activists booed and heckled Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez after marching from the state Capitol to promote a universal heath care program.

    The leader of the nurses’ union that opposed Perez’s recent election had just warned California Democrats that they would put up primary election challengers against lawmakers if they don’t support a bill to create public-funded, universal healthcare. . . .

    “Vote them out,” the crowd chanted, referring to Democrats in the Legislature wavering on whether to support their cause.–Sacramento Bee

    Comment: Their state is broke, despite Silicon Valley. It’s actually losing population for the first time in memory. The Democrats are firmly in control there. And what they want is to spend a lot more money.

     China had a way of stopping US spying. It killed the spies (New York Times)

    The Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward. . . . 

    The number of American assets lost in China, officials said, rivaled those lost in the Soviet Union and Russia during the betrayals of both Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, formerly of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I., who divulged intelligence operations to Moscow for years.–New York Times

    Comment: Hanssen turned out to be the spy the Chinese used.

     As Obamacare edges toward death tremors, the NYT does it best to lay the on . . . , oh, go ahead and guess  (New York Times)

    When Humana announced plans to leave all the health law’s marketplaces next year, the president chimed in, “Obamacare continues to fail.”

    Left unremarked on was a big reason for the instability: The Trump administration and Congress are rattling the markets. –New York Times

    Comment: Yep, the problem with the ACA is Trump.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 16

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     The big stories are all about spying and cyber crime.

     The Washington Post and New York Times lead the reporting on Trump revealing highly-classified information to the Russians. Although the reports are anonymously sourced, they include considerable detail, including the fact that White House people had to clean up after the spill in Aisle 6. They also cite “former intelligence officials,” suggesting Obama’s people are still in the mix, leaking.

    • Washington Post report here.
    • NYT report here
    • The White House has publicly said the reports are false, but they didn’t really say what was false.
    • Every news organization is working on this and I expect plenty more to emerge. 

    Assessment: The anti-Trump left is at DEFCON3, preparing to go nuclear. The anti-Trump right is almost as vocal. Today, their favorite word is treason; tomorrow, it will be impeachment. 

    Those reactions are excessive. At least they are excessive given what we know right now.

    Let’s step back and see what we know.

    Assuming the news reports are largely accurate, Trump told the Russians about a particular kind of terrorist threat that he thought would be of mutual concern. The basic charge against him is that he spoke too freely.

    That’s not illegal, and it’s certainly not treason.

    But it’s not smart, either.

    At this point, we still do not know what damage, if any, his “loose lips” caused–or might cause.

    Although Trump did not disclose “sources and methods” directly, he said enough (according to the WaPo and NYT) that Russian intelligence agencies can walk back the remarks and discover something they shouldn’t know about those sources and methods, particularly about our sources of sensitive human intelligence. We are told that this human intelligence came through an ally, which “owns” the information and will be none-to-pleased. For years, our allies have thought that telling a secret to Washington is pretty close to publishing it.

    Again, assuming these basic facts are accurate, why did Trump do it? My guess: Inexperience, braggadocio, and likely a continued misreading of Russia’s intentions.

    What concerns me is not treason. You don’t do that in a room full of people, as I have tried to remind some friends.

    What concerns me is an undisciplined personal style combined with a chaotic White House organization. This is no way to run a railroad. Or a superpower.  

     Who executed the ransomware attacks? Clues point to North Korea, says the NYT

    The software uses tools we know the North Koreans used in earlier attacks on Sony Pictures and the Bangladesh Central Bank.

    The indicators are far from conclusive, the researchers warned, and it could be weeks, if not months, before investigators are confident enough in their findings to officially point the finger at Pyongyang’s increasingly bold corps of digital hackers. The attackers based their weapon on vulnerabilities that were stolen from the National Security Agency and published last month. –New York Times

    Comment: The attack on Sony was political, designed to punish them for a comedic film they thought mocked Kim Jong Un. The attack on the Bangladesh Central Bank was simply a robbery. That’s what the latest attack was–a crime to earn money.

    I doubt they will earn much money, and I think they will pay a high price because the Chinese were hit by these attacks. You think Beijing likes that?

    Btw, as China puts more pressure on Pyongyang, who will step in to help the North Koreans. There is already evidence the Russians are interested. We know the Iranians are already helping, too.

     Will the US move its embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital? Fox News’ Connor Powell recently reported that Netanyahu told Trump not to move the US embassy right now. Powell’s report is completely false, according to contemporaneous notes of the meeting by the Israelis. Netanyahu was so infuriated by the story that he released private documents proving it false. The story is here in the Jerusalem Post. Similar story here in the Daily Beast.

    It remains to be seen if Fox will withdraw the report–and the reporter.

     Sharp clash between Trump’s team and Netanyahu after a “senior White House official” said the Western Wall was part of the West Bank and not part of Israeli territory. Story here in the Jerusalem Post.

    It seems that the official was prompted to make the statement after members of Netanyahu’s team asked if Netanyahu could join Trump on the visit to the Western Wall and whether Israeli photographers could document the event, to which the Americans replied that the Western Wall was a “disputed territory.”

    The official allegedly went on to say: “This is not your territory but rather part of the West Bank.”

    A source close to the preparations team in Israel told Channel 2 that the statements made by the White House official were received with utter shock by Netanyahu’s team. –Jerusalem Post

    Reuters reports the Israelis are asking the White House to explain the diplomat’s comment, which contradicts the most deeply held views of nearly all Israelis and the stated views of the US President himself.

    Until the 1967 war, Jerusalem was divided and Jews were prohibited (by Jordan) from visiting the Western Wall. Israel, by contrast, perhaps Christians and Muslims to visit their Holy Sites freely within Israel, including sites within Jerusalem’s Old City.

    Comment: Are the Keystone Cops running the White House? Or are the Arabists still running the State Department, perhaps as holdovers from the Eisenhower Administration?

    Whatever the problem is, somebody needs to come in, clean house, and get these operations running efficiently and working in the same direction.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, May 16

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Hospitals, corporations, the world brace for more “ransomware” cyberattacks on Monday  (Financial Times)

    Current data show more than 1.3m computer systems are still vulnerable to infection by WannaCry, which has paralysed hospitals, disrupted transport networks and immobilised businesses, according to cyber security analysts.

    So far, 200,000 computers across 150 countries are known to have been infected in the first wave of the WannaCry cyber attack. ….

    Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan were the most seriously affected countries, according to cyber security company Kaspersky Lab. –Financial Times

     How to catch the crooks? Mostly cyber-sleuthing, plus some old-fashioned techniques (New York Times)

    Investigators are following much the same process that detectives in the physical world have used for decades: secure the crime scene, collect forensic evidence and try to trace the clues back to the perpetrator.

    But for all of their similarities to traditional crimes, cyberattacks have major digital twists that can make them much harder to solve and can greatly magnify the damage done.

    Private cybersecurity firms typically help the official agencies, and the official agencies stretch around the world. Some governments pitch in, some don’t, especially authoritarian governments unwilling to see outside investigators search their internal networks.

    The problem is finding “real” clues among the red herrings.

    Criminals are aware their emails contain revealing clues, and they try to cover their tracks. “People use cloakers, which hide your identity, making you look as if you are someone and somewhere else,” she said.

    Like tracing the license plates of a stolen car back to the wrong person, this can lead investigators astray. “But a good detective can track them,” Patricia Lewis [of London’s Chatham House think tank] said. “They always leave digital bread crumbs that can be followed.” –New York Times

     North Korea fires another missile, says (probably falsely) it can launch nuclear weapons.

    ⇒ Australia says it holds China responsible for North Korea  (Washington Post)

    Comment: Russia is not happy either, since the latest missile landed near their port of Vladivostok.

     Today in lawsuits before the Supreme Court! Can a student, arrested for creating mayhem in school by repeated belching, sue the officer who was sent in to arrest him?  (Daily Caller)

    Comment: Our country has a heckuva lot of problems. This is not one of them. Hand it to Judge Judy.

     Congressional Republicans have overturned 14 last-minute Obama regulations and kept one  (Washington Post)

    The 1996 Congressional Review Act gave Republicans the power to reverse end-of-term rules by the president with a simple majority, within a set time.

    The deadline for scuttling the rules that President Barack Obama imposed during his final months in office was last Thursday. –Washington Post

    The regulations overturned affect the coal industry, broadband customers, hunters, and women seeking health care at abortion providers.

    Bloomberg reports: “The US Economy is Back on Track” Steady growth, it says, but not much more.

     

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