• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 20

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

     Tillerson, Mattis turn up the heat on Iran. Says it is still sponsoring terrorism throughout the Middle East  (Washington Post)

    But they do not want to overturn the nuclear agreement. They see cheating at the margins but not full-frontal violations

    Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis slammed Iran as a destabilizing influence, particularly in Yemen, during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters.

    This week, the Trump administration said it will undertake a comprehensive, 90-day review to judge whether lifting sanctions on Iran serves U.S. interests. So expect to hear more about this topic in the coming months.

    In the meantime, amid all the criticism, here’s a development worth noting: Iran has met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal so far, the administration officially told Congress this week. –Washington Post

     The sheer fun of reading a slash-and-burn column. Not good as a steady diet, but, like cheese cake, great fun as an occasional treat.

    Here’s Howie Carr’s take-down of Elizabeth Warren and her new book. The succession of nicknames alone is worth the read, and so is his parody of what she claims is her favorite curse word: poop. Really. That, she claims, is a f*^king curse word. (My own is “drat.”)  Howie’s column is here. (Boston Herald)

    This is a rough week for Chief Spreading Bull to be starting her tour of the trustafarian gated communities and alt-left fake-news media that are her main, make that only, constituencies. The authors of the Hillary campaign post-mortem, “Shattered,” are also making the green-room rounds. Ditto Bernie Sanders and the DNC’s Dumb and Dumber — Tom Perez and Keith Ellison.

    That’s a lot of poop for the non-working classes to be wading through, but nevertheless, she will persist. . . .

    “Trump slammed back at me repeatedly,” she says on page 226, “hitting me over and over with his lame nicknames.”

    Like, what, Liewatha? What kind of poop did he hit you with? Was it something about your, ahem, Native American heritage? Why no mention of that anymore? She’s still demanding that the president release his taxes. Maybe he should agree to — right about the time she puts out her employment applications to the two Ivy League law schools that hired her as a
    “woman of color.” –Howie Carr

    Comment: Cowabonga.

     Scott Walker continues policies opposing mandatory unions, this time on state construction projects (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

    Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday.

    The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

    Comment: Wisconsin rises, Indiana Rises, Illinois sinks, California Sinks. Notice a pattern? Local voters do.

    ◆ Terror and the Fresno Murders: A comment 

    Kori Ali Muhammad has admitted killing three people–he was caught in the act–and said he wanted to kill more “white people.”

    Police has said that, although he yelled “Allahu Akbar,” his crime was based solely on race, not Islamic terror.

    What he did IS terrorism, in the sense that he meant to cause terror and did.

    The question is whether it is connected to the broader movement of Islamic terror, included “inspired” lone-wolf actions.

    Right now, it is hard to know whether he yelled the Arabic phrase as

    • A signal of black nationalism (National of Islam style),
    • Pure hatred of America,
    • Support for global terrorism, or
    • Some other motive.

    Since he has already begun talking, he might say more about his motivations. We’ll gain other information, too, as police uncover his internet search history, personal and political affiliations, and more.

    As Fresno police and the FBI release their findings, we will gain a sense of how these murders are is connected to the larger Islamic terrorism issue, as well as Muhammad’s hatred of white people.

     Hillary campaign working to discover who leaked embarrassing info for new book, Shattered (NY Post’s Page Six)

    We’re told the details in the book, which depicts the campaign as inept, “could only have come from someone in the inner circle.” Dennis Cheng, the finance director of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been sending out messages to determine where the leaks come from.

    One source said, “The knives are out to find the people who spoke about the campaign to the authors of this book. –NY Post

    Comment: In other news, the Adlai Stevenson campaign is doing a “top-to-bottom look at why we lost and what to do next.”



    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Bryan Caisse 
    for the Howie Carr piece on Elizabeth Warren


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

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

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.


    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story


  • ZipDialog for Saturday, April 1: Three Scandals–What Do We Know?

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

     Single topic today: Explaining the Three Scandals Consuming Washington

    Key Point: There are Three Distinct Scandals (or purported scandals). They overlap but are distinct.

    One reason it is so hard to follow the Washington/FBI/Intel/Congress/Trump administration scandals is that there are

    • So many players,
    • Several separate scandals, and
    • Very little public information. 

    The opposing parties emphasize different scandals

    American citizens should be interested in all three as they unfold.

    1. Russian interference in 2016 election
    2. Team Trump’s Connections to Russians Before and After the Election
    3. Obama White House spying on Team Trump and “unmasking” secret name(s)

    What do we know about each and why does it matter?

    What do we know about each and why does it matter?

    1. Russian interference in 2016 election
      • We know the Kremlin used disinformation and other dirty tricks. We also know they didn’t change the vote count but may have influenced voter opinions.
      • To me, their attack on the integrity of our election is a fundamental attack on our democracy. It ought to be investigated throughly so we can understand what they did, how they did it, and how to counter, deter, and punish in the future.
      • This should be a bipartisan goal, but Republicans have been reticent. Why? Two reasons. First, they think Democrats are using Russian interference as a way of saying “we didn’t lose fair and square.” Republicans think that’s delegitimating their success. Second, they fear the Democrats are trying to link Russian interference to Trump’s team.
    2. Team Trump’s Connections to Russia
      • So far, senior intel officials have testified publicly that there is nothing there.
      • BUT there is an open FBI counter-intelligence investigation into this.
      • The Senate Intel Committee is looking into this and Russian interference (item 1) but the parallel House investigation is stalled over Democrats’ accusations about Chairman Devin Nunes’ partisan connection to Trump
      • We know that Michael Flynn did foreign lobbying for Turkish entities, for which he belatedly registered as a lobbyist
      • Allegations have been made that other Trump team members had business connections to Russian-related entities. Democrats and media outlets have focused on Paul Manafort and Carter Page
    3. Team Obama Spying on Trump Transition
      • We know Trump tweeted about “wiretapping,” an antiquated term
      • It appears that senior Obama officials did receive information about the Trump transition from intel intercepts directed at foreign nationals. Names of US nationals uncovered in such surveillance is supposed to be masked
      • We know that one of the senior Obama appointees unmasked and leaked Michael Flynn’s name; that is a felony
      • We do not yet know who leaked the name
      • We do not know what legitimate reasons, if any, the Obama White House had for circulating information among its officials about internal Trump planning
      • We do not know if the “collateral” information collected on these Trump officials was actually a hidden goal of US spy agencies, tasked by the Obama White House


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 21

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The top three stories all involve public testimony by FBI Director James Comey

    1. Comey confirms his agency is conducting a counter-intelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, including any possible contacts with Trump campaign officials. He said no one was excluded from the investigation, but said little beyond that. (Washington Post report here.) 
    2. Comey said no US Government agency authorized any wiretaps or surveillance of Trump Tower. He added that no foreign agencies have been discovered doing such surveillance. Democrats focused on stories #1 and #2. (New York Times report on take-aways from the hearing here.)
      • Comment: Comey’s testimony directly contradict’s Pres. Trump’s tweet. So do the comments of senior members of Congressional Intelligence committees, who have been briefed on the matter. The White House is refusing to back down from its allegations and says it will present evidence later. Perhaps. But no one outside the White House is convinced.
      • Sidenote: Fox News judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, asserted last week that British intelligence had done the surveillance and had done so at the request of the Obama White House. That has been vigorously rejected by the British and has not been confirmed by another else. For that reason, Fox News has temporarily taken him off the air, according to the New York Times.
    3. Comey said that a major criminal investigation is being conducted into the “unmasking” of Gen. Michael Flynn’s name from an intercepted phone call with a Russian diplomat.  Republicans focused on this crime, led (as they are so often) by Rep. Trey Gowdy’s skilled prosecutorial questioning. (Los Angeles Times story here.)
      • Comment:
        • The release of Flynn’s name is a felony. US intelligence agencies charged with surveillance of foreign countries sometimes capture their conversations with US citizens. By law, the names of those citizens are supposed to be “masked,” that is, kept secret since they were captured without an appropriate court warrant.
        • VERY few people in the intelligence community, White House, and Department of Justice have access to these “unmasked names.” Professionals say it is probably less that two dozen, all senior political appointees of the Obama Administration, such as National Security Adviser Susan Rice, her number 2, Ben Rhodes, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director James Brennan, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, as well as the President.
        • One of those senior people leaked Flynn’s name to selected reporters, leading to a bombshell story in the Washington Post (link here), and then to Flynn’s resignation. It is possible, but less likely, that another senior administration official learned the information and then leaked it. But the crucial point is that the information itself was tightly held.
        • The FBI is now under enormous pressure to solve this.
      • My Advice: Once the groundwork has been laid, the Department of Justice should convene a Grand Jury and take testimony, under oath. Every official who had access to Flynn’s unmasked name should be questioned.

     Healthcare Bill: House Republicans unveil changes to bill, on which they expect to vote this Thursday. According to the Washington Post,

    The tweaks addressed numerous GOP concerns about the legislation, ranging from the flexibility it would give states to administer their Medicaid programs to the amount of aid it would offer older Americans to buy insurance. They are the product of two weeks of negotiations that stretched from the Capitol to the White House to President Trump’s Florida resort.

    The bill’s proponents also appeared to overcome a major obstacle Monday after a key group of hard-line conservatives declined to take a formal position against the bill, known as the American Health Care Act. –Washington Post

    Comment: With these changes, the bill should pass the House. It will likely require significant changes to gain 50 votes in the Senate (the number needed for a Reconciliation Budget Bill, with VP Pence breaking the tie). The bill will then go to a conference committee to produce a single joint bill, repealing and replacing Obamacare. That bill will then have to pass both Houses before Pres. Trump can sign it.

    Comment: If this process seems unfamiliar, it is only because Pres. Obama never used “regular order,” even when he controlled both Houses. Until then, it had been the normal way to pass legislation (which, in turn, is the normal way the US passes its laws, not via bureaucratic rule-making).

     Neil Gorsuch hearings for Supreme Court  The NYT lists six highlights. Actually, there were zero.

    Comment: Gorsuch made a calm opening presentation, following by Republicans preening (accurately saying he is supremely well qualified) and Democrats complaining (accurately saying they would not be sitting here if Pres. Obama’s nominee had been given a hearing and a vote).

    That’s why Republicans are secretly so grateful to Mitch McConnell, who saved this seat for them. 

     Kudos to the University of Chicago:

    Free tuition for any children of Chicago Public School employees admitted to the University.

    The parents can be children of teacher, nurse, janitors, counselors–anyone employed by CPS, and do not have to be graduates of Chicago Public Schools. (WBEZ)



  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 18

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     The “inspired” has expired: “I’m here to die in the name of Allah,” and the attacker did just that at Paris Orly Airport  (CNN)

     Chuck Berry, who helped create rock-and-roll, dead at 90. A full account here at ZipDialog, along with a recording of Johnny B. Goode.

     Trump wants to build a wall 30 feet high that is hard to climb or cut through and looks good from the US side, according to contract notices posted on a US Government website.  (Associated Press)  There will be automated gates for people and vehicles.

    The government will award a contract based on 30-foot-wide sample walls that are to be built in San Diego. –AP

    Pres. Trump’s proposed budget included an initial $2.6 billion request. The total cost is expected to be $12-15 billion.

     Hillary Clinton says she is “ready to come out of the woods.” (New York Times)

    Comment: The woods are overjoyed.

     Republican House bill on healthcare would allow states to tailor some requirements, including whether to require able-bodied adults to work or engage in some substitute, such as volunteer work or education.

    Here is how the Washington Post headlines that news. You be the judge if this is a fair headline:

    “Republicans threaten to deny poor people medical care if they aren’t working” (Washington Post headline)

    Many forms of public assistance, including food stamps, require recipients to work, look for work, volunteer or participate in vocational training. The work requirements vary from one program to the next and have varying requirements vary by the program and traits of the recipients, such as their ages and whether they have children.

    Yet when it comes to health insurance, such requirements would be nearly impossible to enforce, conservative and independent experts on the Medicaid program said Friday. –Washington Post

    Comment: If you wondered what Harry Reid is doing after retirement, he’s writing headlines for the Washington Post

     Parody Song: “I’ve Got Friends in Safe Spaces” 

    Come on in and let’s be cozy. Showin’ off participation trophies

    Watching CNN in safe spaces –Chad Prather and Steve Mudflap McGrew

     Finally, Donna Brazile admits that she was cheating at CNN.

    She was doing it to help Hillary but still won’t admit that. (She says she did it to make “all our candidates look good.” A bald-faced lie. What did you leak to Bernie, Donna?)

    Of course, Hillary still won’t admit she received the questions in advance.



  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 23

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump continues to assert millions of illegals voted in 2016 (Wall Street Journal) There is no evidence to support this strong assertion. To quote the WSJ:

    Without evidence, president says he would have won more votes than Clinton if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn’t cast ballots. –Wall Street Journal

    ◆ Comment: Kudos to my friend, Ameshia Cross, an active Democrat, for her integrity in posting this. 

      Pompeo approved for CIA; Tillerson wins committee approval, will soon be confirmed as Sec. of State (Fox News)

    Comment: The Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are well aware that they would be blamed for not filling national-security positions if there were an attack or crisis. So, much as they wish to slow-walk all the Trump nominees, they are letting the security people get through first. But there is already bad blood about the delays since Republicans say flatly that Schumer had promised an earlier vote on Pompeo and then retracted it.

     Trump Freezes Federal Hiring, with some key exceptions  (Washington Post)

    President Trump instituted an immediate hiring freeze Monday, signing a presidential memorandum that would affect a large swath of the executive branch but leave wide latitude for exemptions for those working in the military, national security and public safety.

    The move — coming on the new president’s first full working day in the White House — represents the opening salvo in what could be the most concerted effort to overhaul the federal workforce in 35 years.

    Critiquing the Washington establishment was central to Trump’s campaign, and he placed federal employees at the center of his effort to “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” –Washington Post

     Beyond lithium-ion: Scientific progress on batteries that last longer, store more  (Science News)

     British-Iranian Aid Worker Jailed in Iran. Her alleged crime: cooperating with the BBC  (Reuters via Jerusalem Post)

    Several Iranian dual nationals from the United States, Britain, Canada and France have been detained in the past year and are being kept behind bars on charges including espionage and collaborating with hostile governments. –Reuters

    Comment: The problem with Pres. Obama paying ransom for a previous hostage is that it encourages more kidnapping. 




  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, January 21

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Kudos to Hillary Clinton for attending the inauguration  No visitor’s appearance was more important than that of the defeated candidate. That is always true. Drudge mocked Bill and Hillary as “glum and glummer.” That’s true, but it misses the larger point. They showed up. They were not part of Rep. John Lewis’ boycott of a president who, he thinks, was not legitimately elected. They deserve praise. For Hillary, this must have been the hardest, most painful appearance of her political life. She deserves the standing-ovation Pres. Trump asked the luncheon at the Capitol to give her and the former president.

     Churchill bust back in Oval Office  (CNN)

    Comment: Good. It’s a small symbolic step, but it says who our friends are.

     Trump has only two confirmed members of his cabinet; Obama had seven  (CNN)

    The seven includes one holdover from the Bush administration, Sec. of Defense Gates.

     CIA chief confirmation delayed amid partisan quarrels (McClatchy)

    Comment: The Democrats have been slowing the confirmation process as a political strategy. Politically, it is a mistake. Nationally, it is a danger since key security officials such as the head of CIA and the Director of National Intelligence are not in office. (Mattis and Kelly are the only confirmed members of the Cabinet. Flynn does not need confirmation.)

    As soon as Cabinet members have turned in all their paperwork and Senators have had several days to review it, they should be voted up or down so the Executive Branch can function with departmental leadership.

    Comment: Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to even shake hands with Betsy DeVos after her hearing was shameful and petty. Vote against her, if you wish, but show some common courtesy.

     China has fewer tools to sustain economic growth, as monetary easing and strong property market “peter out” (Wall Street Journal)

     Net Neutrality, passed by Obama’s FCC, could be reversed  Trump will nominate current FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to head the agency. He opposes many Obama-era policies, including “net neutrality.” (Business Insider)




  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, January 19

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Clinton Global Initiative closing down, all world’s pressing problems solved  The story is here. (National Review)

    Two Comments First, when you rake in money by selling proximity to power, then you go broke when you don’t have anything to sell. It was all about access to the Secretary of State and the future President. Once she’s out of office with no prospect of returning, why would a hard-nosed sheik or kleptocrat give money to Clinton? If Trump had kept his faux-foundation open, they would have given it to him.

    Second, look who did not bother to cover the story.

     Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue picked as Agriculture Secretary The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

    And Trump went down to the wire with the Perdue pick, making him his last Cabinet selection before he is sworn into office Friday. The choice was mired in political wrangling, with some factions pushing Trump to opt for someone from the Midwest or to diversify his Cabinet by naming a Hispanic official.

    If confirmed, Perdue would become the new head of the $140 billion agency, which dictates the nation’s farm policy and also oversees the food stamp program. He would be the first agriculture secretary from a Southern state since Mike Espy of Mississippi headed the department in the early 1990s. …

    A native of Perry, Ga., Perdue helped craft the state’s agriculture policy in the 1990s as a Democratic state senator from Houston County before switching to the GOP in 1998. –Atlanta Journal Constitution

     Headline of the Day: “The French Version of SNL’s “More Cowbell” Sketch is an Insult to Our National Honor

    I have watched the French version so you do not have to. It is an insult to the great Will Ferrell-Christopher Walken version.

    Comment: I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Then I make gold records.

     Schumer finally picks his target: The hit will be on Dr. Tom Price, nominee for HHS.  Schumer could not figure out which nomination to kill (until now, he had 8 possibilities), but now he has settled on Price, who will shape health care reform. Schumer has found an issue, too, if it proves out. He is raising questions about some trades Price made in health care stocks. Now the Senate Minority leader says “there is a very good chance Price won’t be confirmed,” according to The Hill.

    CNN reported on Monday that Price invested in a medical device company shortly before introducing legislation that benefited the company.

    President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has dismissed the CNN report, noting that a broker made the investment and Price wasn’t aware of it until after he introduced the legislation.

    But Schumer floated Tuesday that Price may have broken the law if he knew about the investment.

    “That cries out for an investigation,” Schumer told CNN. “If he knew about it, it could very well be a violation of the law.”

    Three Comments: (1) At the very least, Schumer will call for a lengthy investigation to slow-walk the confirmation. Predictably, Senators Franken, Warren, and Baldwin were shocked, shocked and called for delay on any hearings.

    If Price really violated the law, then the delay is justified and will sink the nomination. If not, not. Schumer has to convince some Republicans to join him; he can’t do that without real evidence.

    (2) The damaging report came from CNN, which was the first mainstream media outlet to report an unverified Buzzfeed story on possible Trump blackmail by Russia over a honeytrap sex sting. The story has not been confirmed since then and major news organizations have tried mightily and failed. If CNN stepped in it a second time, heads should roll and the channel’s remaining viewers should flee.

    (3) Price is a crucial appointment for the new Trump cabinet. None is more important.

     Obama’s Labor Department Sues Oracle for job discrimination  Says it pays white men more and–stop the presses–favors Asian people for “technical roles.” Oracle denies everything and says the lawsuit is political payback. The story is here. (Engadget)


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Randi Belisomo
     for the Clinton Global Initiative story. The comments are my own, of course. (Charles L.)