• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, September 22

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

    ◆ North Korea was sufficiently flummoxed by Trump’s speech that it postponed its own UN speech til Saturday

    The official NK media called Trump names normally heard only at Antifa rallies: “Mentally Deranged U.S. Dotard” (New York Times).

    The word itself is sufficiently odd that the Washington Post had to run an article explaining it. (Link here) Short definition: A person in his dotage.

    His latest threat is an H-Bomb test over the Pacific (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Comment: Expect fire and brimstone from the North Koreans at the UN on Saturday.

    This is not going to end well.

    The really big news is that China’s Central Bank has told all the country’s banks to stop all dealings with North Korea. That’s a major step, one Trump himself called unexpected (Reuters)

    It does not mean all banks will comply, but the penalty (from the US and perhaps China) will be severe for cheating.

    North Korea will undoubtedly try to utilize other currency streams: British Pounds, Euros, Gold, Bitcoins, whatever, but I expect London and Frankfurt will follow Washington’s lead on this.

    Comments:

    1. North Korea is very canny in finding and hiding new sources of financing. The US and others will have to monitor transactions very carefully and punish violators harshly.
    2. It is quite likely that Pres. Trump’s very strong speech to the UN and the credibility of US military threats moved China to take measures against North Korea it clearly did not wish to take and has avoided for two decades.

    Raging Bull Jake LaMotta dead at 95. Champion fighter in the early post-war years was subject of Scorsese movie(New York Times)

    Obama Presidential Library getting lots of pushback from black neighborhood (Chicago Tribune)

    Now that Obama is about to build his presidential center in Woodlawn’s Jackson Park, some residents are wary of his ability to transform neighborhoods without doing harm to longtime residents who could end up displaced by gentrification.

    A nasty fight over a community benefits agreement with the Obama Foundation has exposed an unexpected rift between the former president and some of the South Side residents who helped lift him to prominence. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: Part of the issue is “rent seeking.” Locals want a cut of the action, and Obama won’t sign an agreement with them.

    Another part is that the whole complex, including a fancy golf course, is an upscale project on the lakefront. Pres. Obama had a chance to build it two miles away, in an area with much better transportation and a neighborhood that really needed it.  He preferred the more prestigious site instead. Finally, a lot of the pushback is that activists claim his presidency “didn’t do enough for black people.”

    According to the Tribune:

    At a community forum Wednesday night, a discussion about the proposed agreement morphed into a shouting match over whether Obama actually loves black people. One man in the audience yelled, “No,” while others said he wasn’t necessarily “their brother.” –Chicago Tribune

    ◆ Paging Alex Haley

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 21

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

    ◆ Puerto Rico: direct hit by Cat 4 hurricane. Massive damage, whole Island without power

    An overview of the impact (New York Times)  

    The NYT is providing live updates here.

    Mexico’s massive 7.1 earthquake. Death total already 245, likely to rise  (Washington Post)

    The saddest stories are coming from K-12 schools, where parents await the fate of children. A lot of interest is focused on one hope story of a child trapped alive.

     As the Democratic party shifts left and makes Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare a vital issue, centrist Dems face 2018 problems (Fox News)

    If Democrats in purple or red states go with single-payer, they will pay the price in the general election.

    If they reject it, though, they could face a primary opponent from the left (mirroring the Tea Party attacks on centrist Republicans).

    Comment: There is one piece of good news for Democrats, however. Their general election opponents are Republicans, who have a woeful record on Capitol Hill this session.

    Big Deal: Chinese banks reportedly cut ties to North Korea (Fox News)

    This is huge since China is the conduit for all North Korea’s international trade.

    The bad news is that South Korea is providing a small “humanitarian” gift to North Korea at the same time.

    Comment: Good as humanitarian aid sounds, it always gives leverage to dictatorships, which use the money for themselves and their favorites.

    I assume that North Korea will turn to Russia and Iran for financing, but they would face financial peril themselves if they provide it.

    Trump praises China’s new sanctions against North Korea and ratchets up US sanctions (CNN)

    Comment: The US measures show it has not run out of “non-kinetic” options.

    China’s measures show both that it is frustrated with North Korea’s reckless, autonomous actions and that it fears what the US might do.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, September 11

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

    ◆ Remembering those who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

    Those in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the airplanes, and the selfless first responders.

    As the prayer says, “May their memory be for a blessing.”

    Florida’s massive cleanup begins

    Miami Airport closed Monday because of “significant water damage.” Fears for Florida Keys and southwest FL

    Updated coverage in Miami Herald

    Gangs loot in Ft Lauderdale. Smash windows, grab boxes of shoes and clothes from stores (NBC Miami)

    Comment: They will claim to be victims, not the perps, in 3, 2, 1 . . .

    Btw, Houston and south Texas maintained law and order after their disaster. Let’s hope other cities in Florida can, too.

    Speaking of crime, the creator of McGruff, the Crime-Fighting Dog, dies. Jack Keil was 94. (New York Times)

    Comment: He was 650 in dog years.

     Yawn: Hillary criticizes Donald as she rolls out her book. Upset about identity politics . . . when used by others.

    That’s a shocker. She says Trump “used race to win the election” (Washington Post)

    She adds that his inaugural speech was a white-nationalist cry from the gut.

    Comment: Mrs. Clinton is shocked, shocked to discover identity politics is being practiced in America.

    She plans to search high and low to find the political party that relies on it and on divisive ethnic- and racial-mobilization.

    We wish her the best of luck.

    China pushing for lots more electric cars. Global manufacturers rush in, despite risks (New York Times)

    Comment: The main risk is to intellectual property.

    To gain access to their market, the Chinese demand outsiders give away their proprietary technology to local firms.

    First, robot vacuum cleaners. Now, lawnmowers.

    The best ones, by Husqvarna, currently run $2,000 to $3,500. They rely on GPS and advanced electronics, mow 1.25 acres, and have anti-theft devices. (Link to story here)

    Comment: As with all electronics, expect the prices to drop steadily.

    Once manufactures produce really heavy-duty machines, the robots should save enormous $$$ maintaining highways and parks.

    Expect autonomous snow-plows and more over the next few years.

    Equifax: Still neck-deep in trouble after the hack. Their site to see if you have been hacked is returning random results (Slashdot TechCrunch)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    Michael Lipson for the Equifax story

    ◆ Ed Vidal for Ft. Lauderdale

  • 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

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

  • 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 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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