• ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 15

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

    The aftershocks of Charlottesville continue

    The main story is the fallout from Pres. Trump’s initial failure to single out the instigators of the fatal attack. He has since issued a full-throated condemnation of the white nationalists, but not until he incurred serious political damage.

    The Washington Post makes an important point: “Turmoil in Virginia touches a nerve across the country

     Kim Jong Un backs down from his threat to Guam.  (Story here)

    Comment: The Chinese probably told him he went too far, but we don’t know the next shoe to fall. Kim has not been seen recently, which may indicate another test is near. In any case, the main problem remains, and there is no indication yet that China intends to resolve it.

    Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, says the only solution lies in the US and China working out a joint plan to deal with North Korea. The incentive for China is that North Korea’s provocative behavior could lead to nuclear proliferation in the region, which would be very bad for China. (Op-ed in WSJ, subscription)

    Iran announces that it could restart its nuclear program within hours if the US pulls out of the agreement (BBC)

    Comment: Another problem with pulling out: Obama front-loaded all the benefits–ace negotiators, eh?–so the Iranians have already received them.

    Democratic Party flailing: Four-state tour to reconnect with workers (New York Times)

    The need for the Democratic Party and the labor movement to take stock of their historically close alliance became clear after November’s election when Hillary Clinton’s support among union voters declined by 7 percentage points from 2012 when former President Barack Obama was re-elected.

    For months, Democrats have been grappling with how to reconnect with the union and working class vote they once considered their base, prompting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lament after the election that “my party did not talk about what it always stood for.” –New York Times

    Comment: For the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Steyer, and Keith Ellison to connect with workers, they will need to hire an anthropologist.

    China’s economy continues to cool as Trump Administration looks into its unfair trade practices (US News and World Report)

    Comment: The investigation could lead to tariffs or other punishment. As for Chinese economic performance, it is hard to assess because no serious economist trusts Beijing’s official data.

    Today in teaching

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 14

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

    ◆ Quick Update on Charlottesville, which remains the top story.

    1. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are now facing a federal investigation for violating civil rights.
    2. The driver of the deadly car, to be arraigned today, will be looked at closely to see if he was part of a conspiracy
    3. Pres. Trump still being excoriated (across the political spectrum) for his failure to single out the neo-Nazis and supremacists in his statement condemning the violence
    4. National Security Adviser McMaster calls the act “terrorism,” and Ivanka Trump condemns the supremacists in clear language, at the outset
    5. More attention is now focusing on the failure of the police to intervene and stand between the opposing groups. They appear to have “stood down,” much like the police in Baltimore.
      • We need to know why
      • We need to have a clear set of “best practices” for police in these dangerous confrontations

    Comment: It is shameful that the President did not speak out as clearly as his daughter. Yes, the left-wing and anarchist Antifada was there and did fight, but the main responsibility for violence belongs to the extreme right in this case. In other cases, when the responsibility belongs elsewhere, the President should condemn that, too, and do so in clear language.

    Today in Islamic terror: 18 killed in attack in West African state of Burkino-Faso, at restaurant frequented by foreigners (CNN)

     As part of UN sanctions, China bans North Korea iron, lead, coal imports (Washington Post)

    But China also warned the US:

    In an editorial, the state-owned China Daily newspaper said Trump was asking too much of China over North Korea….

    Trump’s “transactional approach to foreign affairs” was unhelpful, it said, while “politicizing trade will only exacerbate the country’s economic woes, and poison the overall China-U.S. relationship.” –Washington Post

    Comment: China is doing the minimum to avoid becoming the focus of international pressure, but not enough to really change North Korean policy.

     Ooooops! Next shoe drops in Google’s controversy over women in tech, and that shoe is polished with irony:

    Google’s international competition for computer coders–“Google Code Jam”–has all-male finalists for 14th year in row (Daily Caller)

    Google uses the event to identify candidates for potential employment, recruiting tech wizards from all over the world—from the Philippines and Japan, all the way over to Russia, Sweden, and across the ocean to Latin America and the United States….

    Every year, tens of thousands of would-be programming masters sign up for the competition—solving programming puzzles in record time. Only the best of the best make it to the final stage…..

    Based on merit alone, the Code Jam does not make any considerations to contestants’ race, gender, political affiliation, or social status. It’s a test of pure skill. –Daily Caller

    Comment: One of the great achievements of the Enlightenment was the shift in how people are selected for top jobs and prizes–away from status and caste (are you an aristocrat? a member of the dominant race or religion?) and toward merit-based selection.

    That achievement is now being challenged without intellectual clarity. That is, some favor affirmative action because it will “level the playing field” and so allow true merit to shine. Others think of it as a benefit that is owed to groups formerly discriminated again; that approach is inherently opposed to merit-based selection. So is retaining preferences well into a person’s career, by which time merit should have already been apparent.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 7

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

    China tells North Korea to “be smart” and stop testing its missiles and nuclear devices (Washington Post)

    US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson held out the possibility of direct talks with North Korea “when conditions are right.”

    China delivered frank advice to North Korea, its outcast neighbor, telling Pyongyang to make a “smart decision” and stop conducting missile launches and nuclear tests.

    The statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came on the heels of a U.N. Security Council decision to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and its exports, and it suggested that the American push to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un is reaping some dividends. But Wang also called on the United States to dial back the tension. –Washington Post

    Comment: If North Korea continues to test after China’s open statement, Xi and his government will lose face and be forced to react. Still, my guess is that China won’t put harsh pressure on North Korea because it fears the regime’s collapse. The only calculation that will change that? If Beijing thinks Japan could go nuclear or that the US will take military action.

    Baltimore’s community leaders proposed a “weekend without killing.” The city made it til Saturday night (Hot Air)

    Baltimore is on-track for another near-record number of killings this year.

    Unfortunately, the group organizing the ceasefire took to their social media pages to decry the violence but somehow couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the blame around a bit too far.

    “There is a war going on in Baltimore right now. We are experiencing genocide among our African-American males, both by the hands of the Police Department and from one another.” –quoted in Hot Air

    Baltimore’s City Paper reports 205 murders (as of August 2, 2017), about one per day.

    Hot Air’s reporter found only one involved a police shooting.

    And that guy was holding a foot-long knife to the throats of a one year old and a four year old when negotiations finally broke down and the cops took him out. –Hot Air

    Comment:  So, does the statement about a “genocide” by the police look accurate–or like blame-shifting or even incitement? Not a difficult call.

    University of Southern California in midst of a nasty scandal (Los Angeles Times)

    The case [involves] former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The [LA] Times reported last month that Puliafito, while leading USC’s Keck School of Medicine, partied with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals who said he used drugs with them, including on campus.

    The problem is compounded by the fact Puliafito’s behavior had been a subject of controversy for some time, as this headline indicates:

    Complaints of Drinking, Abusive Behavior Dogged USC Medical School Dean for Years–KTLA

    USC had reappointed Puliafito after those complaints five years ago, raising questions about the school’s administrative oversight.

    Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta (ABC News)

    Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives in a rented mobile home in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta.

    During a summer that feels like a sauna, the trailer’s air conditioner has conked out. Some nights, Allen and her five children find cooler accommodations with friends and relatives.

    Comment: The story is about Jonestown, Mississippi, about 15 miles from my hometown of Marks. The poverty in these small towns is grinding, and lives are hard. Otibehia Allen’s life, as it is described in the story, sounds like a modern version of Dickensian poverty.

    But there is something missing from the story, which focuses entirely on poverty, the Great Society programs, and the promises of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

    There is no interest at all in three “elephants in the room.”

    1. Why on earth would a 32-year-old single woman have five children? How can even the best-hearted parent hope to give them the guidance and support they need?
      • Who could manage that, even with lots of money? With hardly any money, how can even the most loving mother give these children the attention and direction they need?
      • Yet having five kids–and beginning to have them as a teenager–is simply taken as a “given” in this article. Nobody seems to be responsible for it. People are just victims.
    2. Why are things in our poorest communities is such bad shape all over the country after five decades of big-government programs designed in Washington to deal specifically with poverty, crime, unemployment, and poor education? The article doesn’t bother asking.
      • That question needs asking because these problems are as pervasive in Detroit as in the Delta. (See the article on Baltimore above).
    3. As heart-wrenching as stories about the Delta or Appalachia are, shouldn’t we be focused on getting people to adapt to a changing environment, to move to where jobs are growing, and to get the skills they need for those jobs?
      • Of course, it would be great if the jobs came to where people already lived. But that’s magical thinking. Gary, Indiana, was built when steel was produced in giant mills. The Mississippi Delta was populated when small farms needed lots of agricultural workers, and they needed to live near the farms because transportation was so bad. If cities can transform their economic base, as Pittsburgh and Chicago have, that’s great. But our focus needs to be on people, not places.
      • Unfortunately, nobody with five kids can move easily. Nobody who starts having multiple kids as a teenager is going to gain many job skills after that. It’s hard to even imagine solutions for people in these terrible situations.

    Please don’t mistake these tough questions for a hard heart. That poor mother and her five children deserve our sympathy. The kids, in particular, deserve our support, all the more so because it is hard to see how they can avoid being trapped themselves.

    But a sympathetic heart doesn’t mean a soft head. It doesn’t imply that well-intentioned policies lead to good results. They might. They might not.

    In America’s poorest areas, things will not get better by repeating the same failed policies, by refusing to confront the cycle of generation-after-generation remaining poor and uneducated, and then well-meaning people strutting with pride over how much we care.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, August 6

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

    UN bans key North Korean exports because of missile tests (Reuters)

    Could cut up to 1/3 of the state’s meager $3 billion export revenue.

    Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the UN, offered a weary, pessimistic assessment:

    We should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem. Not even close. The North Korean threat has not left us, it is rapidly growing more dangerous. –Amb. Nikki Haley to UN Security Council

    Meanwhile, China and Russia sharply criticized US deployment of anti-missile systems in South Korea.

    Related Story: US tells China it will be watching closely to see if Beijing actually executes the promised sanctions (Associated Press)

    Comment: This will only get more dangerous.

    Administration leakers should not be hard to catch, says Washington Post.

    The headline news has been Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepping up the number of investigations and saying that journalists who receive classified information should not be immune if lives are endangered (a questionable argument, in light of Supreme Court precedents).

    The Post, citing cyber-security experts, lists four steps in the investigations:

    1. Find a pool of suspects
    2. Shrink your pool using digital tools
    3. Subpoena and grab personal data
    4. Question and prosecute

    Comment: The key thing to notice about these leaks is that they are not whistle-blower leaks, designed to expose wrongdoing. They are designed either to damage the President or his administration or, alternatively, to win internal battles over policy. Neither is tolerable when the information is classified. The damage to the country should be obvious.

    Gang Warfare: Arch-rivals of MS-13, the Barrio-18 gang are equally lethal (Daily Mail)

    Barrio-18 was founded in Los Angeles and has now spread across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. It has “an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 members across 20 US states and is linked to drugs, murder, kidnappings and other violent crime from Central America to Canada.”

    ◆◆ Two “Dumb Criminal” Stories so breathtaking in their stupidity, I have to include both

    Meth dealer walks into a bank with a $1 million dollar bill (fake, of course) and a deposit slip. What could possibly go wrong? (Daily Mail)

    Comment: Such a carefully thought-out plan, too. Where did he trip up?

     Anthony Thomas is an impressive co-winner of “perp of the day” (New York Daily News)

    Comment: “Does this mean I don’t get the job?”

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, August 5

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

    Special Counsel Mueller’s office ask White House for docs on Mike Flynn; doing a full investigation of Flynn’s financial dealings, especially those with Turkey (New York Times)

    Taking money from Turkey or any foreign government is not illegal. But failing to register as a foreign agent is a felony, and trying to hide the source of the money by routing it through a private company or some other entity, and then paying kickbacks to the middleman, could lead to numerous criminal charges, including fraud.

    Prosecutors have also asked during interviews about Mr. Flynn’s speaking engagements for Russian companies, for which he was paid more than $65,000 in 2015, and about his company’s clients — including work it may have done with the Japanese government. –New York Times

    Comment: Besides Flynn’s vulnerability, the thing to note here is that Mueller’s office appears to be illegally leaking confidential investigation materials to the NYT.

    Venezuela’s march toward complete dictatorship continues (New York Times)

    Hugo Chavez’s successors are rewriting the Constitution to give themselves total power.

    Predictably, the economy is collapsing, people are trying to flee, etc.

    Comment: Sean Penn had no comment.

    US proposes even tougher UN sanctions against North Korea (Channel NewsAsia)

    Vote expected Saturday in UN Security Council after a month of negotiations with China. It will be the 7th set of UN sanctions on North Korea.

    The [proposed] measures that include a ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as seafood by the cash-starved state. . . .

    The draft text would also prevent North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad, prohibit all new joint ventures and ban new investment in the current joint companies. –Channel NewsAsia

    The proposal would also blacklist the regime’s Foreign Trade Bank but would not prohibit shipments of oil to North Korea.

    Comment: The EU, Japan, and South Korea have supported US efforts.

    My guess: These sanctions will not stop Kim’s pursuit of nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan “casts doubt on Pres. Trump’s plan to cut legal immigration” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    To quote Ryan:

    With baby boomers leaving the workforce, we’re still going to have labor shortages in certain areas and that is where a well-reformed legal immigration system should be able to make up the difference. –Paul Ryan interview with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    Comment: ZipDialog has noted that the proposal to cut the number of legal immigrants is separable from the proposed new point system, focusing on higher skills and English language. Big business does not want the total numbers cut, and Ryan’s comments suggest those concerns have resonance.

    Nissan workers in Mississippi overwhelmingly reject high-profile unionization bid from United Autoworkers (New York Times)

    In a test of labor’s ability to expand its reach in the South, workers at a Nissan plant in Mississippi have overwhelmingly rejected a bid to unionize.

    Out of roughly 3,500 employees at the Canton-based plant who voted Thursday and Friday, more than 60 percent opposed the union. It was an emphatic coda to a years-long organizing effort underwritten by the United Automobile Workers, which has been repeatedly frustrated in its efforts to organize major auto plants in the region. –New York Times

    Experienced workers make $26 hour there, well above average wages in the state. Detroit wages are a few dollars higher. Nissan’s contributions to employees’ retirement accounts are similar to those of Michigan automakers, according to the NYT.

    Comment: The majority of plant workers are black, and the UAW had contributed heavily to civil-rights organizations as part of the organizing effort.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 2

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

    US investigating China’s unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property (New York Times)

    This is a broad effort, supported by Pres. Trump and led by the office of the US Trade Representative

    Comments:

    • China does have unfair trade practices; their economy is suffused with them
    • China steals intellectual property on a massive scale–and everyone knows it
    • Trump made China’s discriminatory trade practices a central campaign issue, with a focus on the harm these practices do to US workers
    • He held off any hardline against China in the hope Xi would get tough with North Korea. He probably knew it was a long shot, but he had to try. Once it was clear Beijing would not help in a serious way on North Korea, there was no reason to withhold a reassessment of bilateral economic relations with China.

    Corporate leaders will fear a trade war, understandably. They would prefer a bad-but-stable arrangement with Beijing, providing access to the Chinese market. Trump undoubtedly thinks he can get a better deal, with a focus on US jobs, and he understands how vulnerable China is. Its entire economy is based on open access to world markets without letting those market participants have equal access to China.

    Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes now a person of interest in unmasking investigation (Circa)

    This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan have all been named in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the unmasking of Americans. A letter sent last week from Nunes to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggested that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections. –Sara Carter at Circa

    Comment: This investigation deserves a lot more media attention–and some serious investigative reporting. If the unmasking was unnecessary, that would be a problem but merely another example of power corrupting. If, however, the unmasking had partisan political aims, that would be a much more serious issue since it would be illegally transforming our foreign intelligence operations into a political instrument for one US administration to use against domestic opponents. If that is proven, it would be a fundamental blow to our constitutional governance.

     DOJ to sue universities that use affirmative action to discriminate against white applicants (New York Times)

    An internal announcement to the [DOJ’s] civil rights division seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” –New York Times

    Comment: The latest Supreme Court decision narrowly approved the continued use of race as one factor in admissions, but there are several other cases pending, so the weighting of the racial factor is still being litigated. Indeed, as the composition of the Court changes, the overall status of race-based admissions may change.

     Can this marriage be saved? Bride arrested after pulling gun from wedding dress and pointing it at the groom (New York Post)

    Comment: In a shocker, police report alcohol may have been involved.

    Today in Irony: Palestinian Authority chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who has opposed Israel at every turn, has asked to be put on Jewish State’s list for a lung transplant–and will, of course, be put on the list. (Jerusalem Post)

    Comment: Meanwhile, the PA continues to pay terrorists for killing Israelis.

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    Thanks to Clarice Feldman and Eduardo Vidal for the story on Affirmative Action

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 1

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

     Comment: What the Scaramucci ouster shows:

    • The initial appointment was another of Trump’s unforced errors
    • John Kelly has quickly asserted control over White House staff, obviously with Pres. Trump’s blessing
    • The White House desperately needs to assemble a stable, competent communications team (Rumors are that Kellyanne Conway could be the new Communications Director; she would be a good choice.)

    ⇒ More at a separate ZipDialog post here.

    If anybody can run this circus, it’s Kelly. The biggest question is whether he can get the Ringmaster to restrain himself. Conway did it for several months as campaign manager. Perhaps Conway and Kelly can do it again. But they are facing an impulsive, temperamental, thin-skinned boss.

     More night-time lights in North Korea show an improving economy, despite sanctions  (Fox)

    Comment: Blame China. They’ve played the US for years. Trump, James Mattis, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence have all declared that the time for talk–and waiting for China’s voluntary assistance–is over. Easier to say than to do.

    The question is whether any pressure on North Korea, either directly or via China, will stop them? China will only act if they fear a dreadful alternative. The only possible alternative short of war that they might fear is a nuclear-armed Japan. Moving in that direction is obviously fraught with dangers.  Before that, expect more anti-missile batteries, possible shoot-downs of North Korean launches, and economic sanctions against Chinese banks and trading companies.

     Pres. Trump himself dictated Jr’s misleading statement about meeting with Russian lawyer  (Washington Post)

    Comment: It’s hard to be stunned by this White House–or the leaks–but this qualifies. It is almost certainly not obstruction of justice in its own right, but it will undoubtedly attract the interest of Special Council Robert Mueller, who will look for a pattern.

     Venezuela sinking into a chaotic dictatorship, with economy in free fall  (Washington Post)

    Comment: The US is imposing more sanctions and could impose even more stringent ones. If so, expect the Iranians, Russians, and Chinese to step up and offer support in bids for more influence. The Iranians already have big-time connections there, forged under Chavez.

     Alabama inmates escaped using peanut butter. In jam after capture.  (Washington Post)

    They used peanut butter to renumber the jail cells and fool an inexperienced guard.

     Alphabet (Google) working on new way to store lots of energy; alternative to lithium-ion batteries (Bloomberg)

    They have a “skunk works” operation that tries to develop these long-shot projects. The idea here is to send energy to a heat pump, some of which will supercool antifreeze (or some alternative liquid), some of which will heat molten salt. When air from the separate hot and cold tanks are combined, they produce wind vortexes that spin turbines and generate electricity.

    Alphabet is working with prototype plants now and could be ready to work with a manufacturer soon to build a real-world version. The plants could range in size from as small as a garage to as large as a conventional electric plant.

    Besides scaling up, the researchers are looking for ways to build the plan with cheaper materials.

    Storage like this is crucial if renewable energy sources are to play a larger role since most renewables only produce power intermittently (when the sun is shining, the winds are blowing, etc.).

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, July 31

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

     Comment: What the White House Shakeup Means

    It was obvious Priebus had to go. He had failed to impose order on the warring factions in the West Wing, which were leaking furiously to the media.

    He had also failed (through no fault of his own) at the main task for which he was hired: getting legislation passed. As a friend of House Speaker Paul Ryan, Priebus was expected to mediate between the Hill and an outsider President. But there were no legislative triumphs to point to, aside from a Supreme Court appointment and a Health Care bill that passed one chamber.

    What about the new guy? Trump’s choice of John Kelly says three things.

    1. The most important thing now is managing the factions in the West Wing and creating a smooth, efficient work flow for the President.
    2. The legislative agenda will have to be handled by others, not the Chief of Staff, who has no experience on the Hill.
    3. Trump is willing to move decisively on personnel. He fires people. (The obvious exception is the shameful treatment of Jeff Sessions, whom Trump wants out but doesn’t want to fire, for some reason.)

    Firing Priebus was not a bold move, but putting Kelly in that job is. Trump better get this one right. His Presidency is in deep trouble right now, and he needs to right the ship immediately.

    What I’d love to know: What did Kelly say to Trump before taking the job? What guarantees did he need? Military officers are trained to say “yes” to the commander-in-chief. If the President said, “John, I need you in this job,” then Gen. Kelly would be disposed to accept the position. My question is what kind of authority he asked for and whether he confronted the rogue elephant in the room: the guy sitting in the other chair.

     Putin hits back at US sanctions: tells most US diplomats to leave  (Washington Post)

    Comment: There are still plenty of US officials left in Russia, but this is a strong, escalatory response.

    Still, Putin is playing a very weak hand. What’s weakest? His economy, which is a basket case and depends completely on hydrocarbons, which are under tremendous, long-term downward pressure because of fracking and alternative energy. He is dangerous, not because his strength is growing but because he’s a wounded bear.

     Related article: OPEC’s big troubles  (Bloomberg)

    Comment: They have cut back production, but it failed to ramp up prices. Why? US oil-and-gas technology and global tech for alternative energy.

    Trump and Japan’s leader, Abe, talk about “grave and growing threat” from North Korea(Reuters)

    Nikki Haley tells UN that we are “done talking” about North Korea. Wants real action. 

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and agreed on the need for more action on North Korea just hours after the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said Washington is “done talking about North Korea”.

    Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement China must decide if it is willing to back imposing stronger U.N. sanctions on North Korea over Friday night’s long-range missile test, the North’s second this month.

    Any new U.N. Security Council resolution “that does not significantly increase the international pressure on North Korea is of no value”, Haley said, adding that Japan and South Korea also needed to do more. –Reuters

    Comment: We are on the edge of war. The next US action, short of a naval embargo or other act of war, would be serious economic sanctions on any bank or other company doing business with North Korea. This would hit Chinese banks hard because it would exclude them from US currency transactions. The Japanese could take actions against North Korea criminal earnings in their country. And both the South Koreans and Japanese could install more anti-missile systems. 

    Beijing has played a double game here, as it has for years. It offers weak help to the US, but it is not willing to risk the collapse of the Kim regime. The question Trump is posing is whether they will stick to that position if the US decides to put much more pressure on Pyongyang, threatening both war and China’s connection to the world trading system.

    Finally, some good economic news: US economy grew at 2.6% rate in second quarter  (NPR)

    The driver? Consumer Spending

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, July 8

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

     The main stories come out of the G20 meetings in Hamburg.

    • Anti-capitalist riots in the street by extreme left and anarchists
      • Comment: Idiots with nihilist agenda
    • Trump has very long 1-on-1 with Putin
      • Full range of issues, beyond US election meddling, with focus on Syrian cease-fire and division of territory there after ISIS defeat
    • Trump has China’s Xi on schedule on 1-on-1 today
      • North Korea is top of the agenda, of course, but also trade
    • Ivanka briefly sits in for Pres at G20 meeting on Africa alongside world leaders  (Washington Post) (Comment: A nothingburger; still, it should have been the Sec. of State sitting there)

    Comment: We won’t know the results (as opposed to the agendas) of the Putin and Xi meetings until the effects on the ground are seen, beginning next week. The fact that Putin and Trump met without advisors is interesting, too. It indicates how serious the leaks are. The US cannot trust anybody to be in room.

    Comment on Silences at G20: This was supposed to be a showcase for German leader, Angela Merkel. She has been overshadowed by Putin, Xi, Trump, and rioters. Second, we have heard little so far about the shared challenges of Islamic terrorism and vast immigration flows from North Africa and the Middle East.

     US B1 bombers fly over South Korea as heads-up to North Korea after its ICBM test  (CNN)

    Comment: The signal is “the US can easily can incinerate you.” The problem is, if we launch a military attack, the North Koreans can kill large numbers in Seoul. Moreover, the Chinese might come in to prevent a Korea unified under American leadership.

    There are no good US options here. My guess is that the US starts to up financial sanctions on all North Korean trading partners, including Chinese banks.

     Venezuela’s top opposition leader released from prison to house arrest  (CNN)

    Comment: The country is tottering toward civil war, and oppo leader Leopoldo Lopez is a threat to the regime. The surprise here is that he did not die in prison.

     Chuck Schumer skewers Rex Tillerson over Russian meddling in US election  (The Hill)

    “For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.” –The Hill

    Comment: Schumer is correct. This issue is not “unresolved.” His base loves it; it reinforces their view that Trump is illegitimate. But voters are interested in forward-looking solutions to real problems in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Schumer knows that, of course, but he has to toss red meat to the base. 

     Morgan Stanley: Renewables will be the cheapest power source within three years (Business Insider)

    Numerous key markets recently reached an inflection point where renewables have become the cheapest form of new power generation.

    A dynamic we see spreading to nearly every country we cover by 2020. The price of solar panels has fallen 50% in less than two years (2016-17). –Morgan Stanley via Business Insider

     K-12 Education: Betsy DeVos takes hard line on enforcing federal laws, surprising states who thought she would support local control (New York Times)

    The basic issue is an Obama-era law, replacing No Child Left Behind, that requires “ambitious” educational goals to meet federal standards. How much latitude will the Washington’s Dept. of Ed. give states to determine for themselves what it “ambitious”?

    “It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” –quoted in New York Times

    Comment: Conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about this issue. They weren’t surprised by Washington’s heavy hand under Obama; they don’t expect it under DeVos and fear they may be getting it.

    Alternative possibilities are that

    • Lower-level officials did this without DeVos’ approval (the person who wrote it is a Democratic advocate for charter schools, appointed by DeVos)
    • The Dept. is actually enforcing the law, as written, until Congress rewrites it

    José Luis Cuevas, a Dark Master of Mexican Art, Dies at 83 (New York Times)

    Comment: He was continually greeted by folks at the bar singing: 

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦