• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, July 13

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

     US had a clear shot at killing Kim Jong Un recently but decided not to pull the trigger (Yahoo News)

    They had him in their sights when he went to the ICBM launch. The fear, of course, is that a US strike would begin a devastating war.

    Comment: So, what’s behind this leak? The US is sending a very threatening message to Kim. Move against us and you die. Or you might want to live underground for a while.

     Politico reports: White House aides feeling ‘helpless’ as Trump Jr. scandal explodes

    The news in the story is that key White House aides are not bothering to play down this meeting as fake news or a false scandal, though some of Trump’s staunchest supporters do.

    Comment: The in-fighting will increase and, with it, the leaks. 

    If you think it’s bad now, imagine how much worse it gets if Congress cannot enact bills on healthcare and tax reform.

    Another strange aspect of the “Russian lawyer” story: Why did Loretta Lynch’s DOJ give her special permission to come to the US? (The Hill)

    This revelation means it was the Obama Justice Department that enabled the newest and most intriguing figure in the Russia-Trump investigation to enter the country without a visa. –The Hill

    Comment: She appears to have been given permission to come to do some specific legal work for a client but quickly shifted over to lobbying for Russian sanctions relief.

    ◆ Another day in Florida: Instagram model arrested for attacking police during nude encounter at Florida hotel (Fox News)

    According to the Clearwater Police report obtained by The Smoking Gun, [25-year old Brissa] Dominguez had trespassed onto the Edge Hotel’s property at approximately 4:20 a.m. on July 5. Officer Richard Edmonds later arrived on the scene to find Dominguez naked, so he handed her a towel. But instead of covering up, Dominguez used the towel to “strike [Edmonds] in the face by swinging it in a whipping motion.”

    Dominguez then proceeded to kick at the responding officers. The police report says she also tried biting and spitting on an officer before delivering a “mule kick” to Edmonds as police attempted to restrain her.

     Brazil’s former leader, Lula da Silva, indicted for corruption  (Washington Post)

    Comment: The corruption seems to have been pervasive in his government and that of his party.

     Fed Chair Janet Yellen: US economy strong enough to warrant more interest-rate increases  (Washington Post)

    Comment: Barring some shock, expect a couple more increases this year.

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  • Teamsters official says he is retiring “to begin the next chapter” in his life. He didn’t mention the extortion indictment

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    The labor leader is John Coli, Sr., who has been with Teamsters for 46 years and is “considered one the union’s most powerful figures nationally,” according to the Chicago Tribune (story here).

    The feds charged him with

    threatening work stoppages and other labor unrest for a business –identified only as Company 1–unless he was paid quarterly cash payoffs of $25,000.

    They say he had accepted five payoffs, the last one in April.

    Coli is well-connected politically. He has cultivated strong ties to leaders in both parties–Illinois Governors Blagojevich, Quinn, Rauner, it doesn’t matter whether they are D’s or R’s–and to the Chicago Democrats, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for whom he worked actively and contributed generously.

    Comment: A very thorough investigation of his finances should prove interesting, and I’m sure the Feds are itching to do it.

    If the feds can prove these threats and payoffs were a regular practice, then a lot of money should have flowed in over the years, leaving Coli with a lot of good cheer to spread around.

     

  • US-Russian Relations: What matters but isn’t covered in all the tabloid news

    Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 election matters. So do any possible connections to the Trump campaign

    But the media’s obsession with those issues is missing other major developments in US-Russian relations

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The news about US-Russian-European relations goes far beyond the 2016 election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign.

    On the international stage, Vladimir Putin has skilfully played a very weak hand, while the US misplayed its own for 8 years. Putin has taken an economy the size of Italy’s and returned it to status as an international power.

    It is Iran’s major outside supporter and a major player in Syria, where, in return for supporting the Assad regime, it has acquired major bases.

    It has used Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas for political leverage.

    And it has effectively offered to step in and assist North Korea if they want assistance beyond China’s.

    But he can only stay in power by running a corrupt kleptocracy, in close alignment with the oligarchs, with everything stage-managed from Moscow.

    That’s a good way for him to stay in power, but it is a terrible way to grow a diverse, modern economy. Over the long run, the Russian economy will continue to sputter as the US grows.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    What has the Trump Administration done to cope with Putin internationally?

    The media focus has been entirely on US weakness, especially Trump’s mixed statements about NATO and his inexplicable reluctance to recognize the threat from Russia in clear, unambiguous language. There has been some focus on the recent cease-fire in Syria, too.

    But there is much more to the story. And all these other developments put pressure on a Kremlin ill-equipped to handle it.

    NATO

    On NATO, as I have noted, Trump is now a firm supporter but he still wants two major changes: a focus on terrorism and fair-share payments from European partners, as they promised. One reasonable interpretation of his threats to back away from NATO is that they are meant to get Europe to pay up.

    Poland

    In Poland, Trump did more than make a speech (a very good one in my opinion, a very bad one in the opinion of Democrats). He also agreed to an important arms sale the Obama Administration had refused.

    In a move set to counter Russia’s reinforcement on NATO’s borders, Poland and the U.S. have agreed that Warsaw will purchase the American-made Patriot air defense missile, the Polish government announced Thursday.

    Although Poland is a long-term advocate for more U.S. military presence in Europe, Russia’s decision to deploy Iskander missile systems on its borders in November made the demand for assistance more urgent. The S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems are set to be delivered in Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave bordering Poland. –Newsweek, story here

    Ukraine

    Totally missing from news coverage is the startling news that Ukraine is now openly seeking NATO membership–understandable, given the Russian threat, but an open insult to the Kremlin, which refused even to let Ukraine strike a trade deal with the EU.

    The Reuters story is headlines: “Pledging Reforms by 2020, Ukraine Seeks Route into NATO

    [Ukraine’s] President Petro Poroshenko, whose country is fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, revived the prospect of NATO membership during a visit by NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg who himself used the occasion to call on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

    “Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and its future in the sphere of security,” Poroshenko speaking to reporters alongside Stoltenberg.

    “Today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.”

    Russia, deeply opposed to enlargement of NATO toward its borders, weighed in quickly, saying the prospect of NATO membership for Ukraine would not promote stability and security in Europe. –Reuters

    It’s unclear how NATO will approach this or what the Trump Administration will say (or even if it will speak with one voice).

    But the very fact that Ukraine has raised the NATO issue is sure to be a major irritant in US-Russian relations.

    Energy

    The Russian economy depends on oil revenues, and so does the Kremlin to retain support from oligarchs.

    The problem is that energy prices are under permanent, long-term pressure from the US, where shale technology is getting more and more efficient. The US is now a major (and growing) energy exporter, and Trump is doing everything he can to ramp up production and ramp down prices.

    The impact on Russia is not his primary concern here. He’s more concerned with the positive impact of lower prices on the US economy. But the impact on Russia is real, nonetheless, and Trump means to exploit it.

    On his recently completed trip, the president said:

    Let me be clear about one crucial point. The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations, and we cannot allow others to do so,” Trump said at a press conference flanked by European leaders. “You don’t want to have a monopoly or a monopolistic situation. –CNBC story here

    Trump did not name Russia, but everyone understood his message. After all, Russia had cut gas supplies to Europe in 2008 over a Ukraine dispute. Trump was saying, in effect, that we intend to stop that blackmail by giving you an alternative supplier.

    Bottom Line

    The possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign are worth a thorough investigation, as Mueller is doing.

    But don’t be mislead by Democrats’ talking tough: they did little to buttress Central European defenses during the Obama years. Pres. Obama had no intention of increasing US hydrocarbon production, if he could prevent it. (He couldn’t, thanks to new technology.) Lower energy prices it contradicted his broader concerns about fossil fuels and global warming. Fracking technology beat his regulatory onslaught, just as it beat the Saudis’ attempt to drive them out of business with low energy prices.

    For all Trump’s inexplicably warm language about Putin, his actions tell a different story. He’s selling arms to Poland, pressuring Europeans to pay up for NATO, unlocking American oil reserves to lower prices over the long-term, and working to ween Europe from Russian natural.

    Taken together, these actions put enormous pressure on a Kremlin underperforming economically, highly dependent on oil prices, and overstretched by its foreign commitment.

     

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 26

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

     After indications that Syria’s Assad might use chemical weapons again, Trump warns he will pay “a heavy price” for “mass murder” (New York Times)

    Comment: As with most deterrent threats, it is hard to know whether it will work.

    What we do know is that it is could work because it is credible.

    That is, the target (Syria, in this case) has good reasons to believe we will do what we threaten if he acts.

    After Pres. Obama’s failed “red line” and other missteps, our threats were heavily discounted.

    It is worth noting, then, that Trump has managed to reestablish America’s deterrent threat quickly after 8 years of neglect and decline.

     CNN has made several major errors in reporting the Trump-Russia investigation, all adverse to the Administration.

    After the retractions, three CNN journalists are going to spend more time with their families. Story here (Washington Post)

    Comment: My sense is that CNN’s main viewership is airport passengers delayed in boarding.

    I hope the transportation industry survives this setback.

     Amazing story, if further proof emerges. Circa reports that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn began after he intervened to help a (purported) victim of FBI sexual discrimination.  Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter have done first-rate reporting on scandals, so their coverage should be taken seriously. The key here is that the person accused of discrimination is very high-ranking. Indeed, he was acting head of the agency after Comey stepped down.

    The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.

    Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.

    There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.

    McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.

    Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.

    Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus. 

    The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.

    The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.

    This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.

     California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label.  They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)

     That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?

    Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.

    Story here.

    Comment: Check the man for rabies.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
    for the Circa story on the FBI

    ◆ Sam Stubbs for the CNN story.

    Sam reported it correctly, unlike CNN

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 24

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

     Healthcare bill:

    • Another Republican Senator says no (that’s 5).
    • The Democrats go all in on vitriolic criticism.
    • Warren calls it “blood money,” etc.
    • Even Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat, will vote against the bill.

    The conventional wisdom is that the R’s cannot get it through the Senate  and that the D’s will escape all blame from voters.

    Comment: I don’t think the Democrats are home free on this.

    The Republicans will get a lot of the blame, to be sure, if they can’t pass a bill. They should. They have both Houses and the Presidency.

    But the Democrats’ entire strategy on everything in both Houses and in the streets is to resist and obstruct.

    It remains to be seen if voters will endorse that. I don’t think it appeals beyond the base in NY, CA, and university towns.

    Republicans will surely say, “It’s our bill versus Obamacare. The Democrats love Obamacare and won’t do anything but small changes. So now we’re all stuck with it.”

    That stance is reinforced by former Pres. Obama coming out so forcefully against the Republican bill.

    What happens when voters get the bad news from insurance companies in November about next year?  

    Ultimately, the electoral question comes down to this: Which do you hate more? Obamacare or the Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace it?

     Suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia blows himself up, but fails to reach his main target in Mecca: the Grand Mosque (Washington Post)

    The [Saudi Interior] ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaida insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group.

    Neither group immediately claimed those arrested, though Islamic State sympathizers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a U.S.-led coalition. –Washington Post

    Comment: Remember, bringing down Saudi Arabia was the major goal of Al Qaeda all along. So far, not much progress.

    My guess is that the real political risk is related to Saudi efforts to liberalize the economy, which requires freer information and freer women.

     Loretta Lynch, Attorney General in Obama’s final years, is now being investigated by the Senate. Hacked emails from a Democratic campaign official said Lynch “would not to let the Clinton investigation go too far.” That doesn’t look good. Nor does Comey’s testimony that Lynch ordered him to falsely characterize the investigation in public. (USA Today story here)

    Another email, now public,

    indicated that Lynch had privately assured Clinton campaign staffer Amanda Renteria that the FBI’s investigation wouldn’t “go too far.” –USA Today

    The Congressional letter asking Lynch to provide documents was bipartisan, and Lynch has promised to cooperate.

    Comment: First, the Senate has to determine if these emails are real or fake. If they are real, Ms. Lynch may be be able to dance around them. For example, “I only meant I didn’t want it to go too far afield” or that she was simply guessing what the FBI would do. (Why would she be talking about such a secret matter to staffers for the person being investigated?) Or that the staffer misunderstood, etc.

    The fact that Democrats signed the letter to Lynch indicates the Senate committee, led by Grassley and Feinstein, is operating in a bipartisanship fashion, although it could also indicate that Lynch has reassured Democrats she can defend her position.

    Still, the documents now publicly available reek of political interference in a criminal investigation if they are real, not faked by the Russians. As this investigation moves forward, remember, the Democrats refused to allow the FBI to look into their computers after the Russian hack. They haven’t said why.

     When corruption stinks. Literally. The White Plains, NY, city council gave a $175k judgeship to someone who cannot work because she is too fat to climb the three steps to the bench (Daily Caller) Judge Eliz. Shollenberger is chair of the local Democratic Party and all council members are Democrats.

    It actually gets worse. Judge Shollenberger comes to the court house with what we will delicately call “gastrointestinal issues,” which leave the place looking and smelling terrible.

    Shollenberger further dismayed her colleagues by displaying “complete arrogance” following the embarrassing incidents.

    “She would just say, ‘There is a mess over there. I think someone should clean it up,’” a court source told the NY Post. –NY Post, quoted in the Daily Caller

    Comment: The over/under on how long it takes for Judge Shollenberger to play the victim here: 2 minutes. “I’m sick” “This is fat shaming.” Etc.

    Meanwhile, the public has to pay for a non-working judge and a hard-working janitorial crew.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 12

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

     Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate when Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, provided cover for the Hillary Clinton campaign, telling FBI director Comey to say, falsely, that their criminal investigation of Hillary’s email server was merely a “matter,” not an investigation.

    It was a direct order to him, Comey testified. (Politico)

    Feinstein made her statement on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Comment: Lynch’s conduct looks questionable and does deserve investigation.

    Meet with Bill on the tarmac and get covered in tar yourself.

     Democratic Party: Split between establishment liberal leadership and activist-left base  (New York Times)

    Democrats are facing a widening breach in their party, as liberal activists dream of transforming the health care system and impeaching President Trump, while candidates in hard-fought elections ask wary voters merely for a fresh chance at governing.

    The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend. In Chicago, Senator Bernie Sanders led a revival-style meeting of his progressive devotees, while in Atlanta, Democrats made a final push to seize a traditionally Republican congressional district. –New York Times

    Comment: The Republicans have faced the same internal split, in their case between establishment leaders who want to govern and Tea Party/Freedom Caucus activists who want to roll back big government.

    To me, these internal splits represent the electorate’s deep distrust of insiders and their self-dealing and an erosion of the party system itself.

     Pakistani terrorism court sentences man to to death for allegedly “insulting” Mohammed on Facebook  (Fox News)

    The man, Taimoor Raza, is from the minority Shiite sect and was initially charged with a lesser offense.

    Raza’s verdict comes at a time when officials are increasingly pounding down on blasphemy claims across the country. At least 15 Pakistanis are said to have been arrested by the counterterrorism department under the umbrella of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Four other people were sentenced to death for the crime in 2016 alone. . . .

    Scores of others in Pakistan remain on death row for alleged blasphemy, including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who remains in solitary confinement after being convicted in 2010 following a debate with two Muslim women in a Punjab village.–Fox News

    Comment: The obvious point is that Pakistan is a deeply illiberal state. The less obvious point is that Europe, especially England, has admitted a lot of people from that country who have retained those beliefs, posing serious challenges to UK’s tradition of religious tolerance.

     Puerto Rico votes in favor of statehood (Associated Press)

    Some boycotted the vote, which had a very low turnout.

    Comment: Good luck with that, he said sardonically. The Republican Congress is not going to greenlight it.

     The University of Dallas: An impressive reading list if you want to catch up on truly great books.

    The school is proudly Catholic but its reading list is largely non-sectarian. The section on theology naturally emphasizes Catholic documents, but also includes Luther. Neither he nor the Council of Trent would be pleased. And Calvin would not be happy, either.

    The link to the readings is here; click on “A Selection of the Great Books.” The choices are excellent, and the initial suggestions are not an overly long list.

    Comment: The University’s impressive curriculum, plus its commitment to seminar discussion, should allow students to explore serious subjects and gain a deep understanding of Western civilization and its values.

    There is nothing wrong with critiquing that civilization, of course. Nothing at all. Lively criticism–and response–is an essential part of higher education.

    But my sense is that far too many university students begin (and often end) their critique of everything that is wrong with America, Canada, and Europe without actually knowing anything about the traditions they have inherited, including the precious right to engage in this kind of free and open cultural self-criticism.

    That right was hard won and, as we saw too often in the 20th century, easily lost, even in the heart of Europe.

     A liberal establishment power-lawyer in DC signed up to represent Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Her friends now think she’s pond scum (Washington Post story on Jamie Gorelick)

    Some attack her publicly; others hide behind anonymity, proving the know what zip code they live in.

    In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. –Washington Post

    Comment: The issue here is not Jared and Ivanka. It is Gorelick’s Washington “friends,” who say one thing in public and another behind her back, under the cloak of anonymity, which the newspapers print freely.

    Their behavior is capture in a quote attributed to Harry Truman: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

    The attribution is probably incorrect.

    But the sentiment is 100% correct.

    The only discordant bark here is from my dog Lola, who says, for the record, “Do not bring me into this mess.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    Rod Dreher’s column, “Adult Seeks Classical Education”
     and to one of its commenters (Janine) for the University of Dallas story

     

  • A Quick Guide to the Political Firestorm over Comey’s Firing. What matters and why. What Democrats and Republicans will argue

    Donald Trump’s decision to fire James Comey has set off a firestorm, mostly along party lines, but not entirely. Some Republicans have expressed concern, too, and more will wring their hands in the next few days if the Democrats’ narrative takes hold.

    How long the fire lasts and how much it consumes depends, crucially, on information that will emerge out over the coming days, as media organizations pump their sources and Comey defends himself.

    Here are the basic messages you will hear from Democrats and Republicans, starting immediately.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The Democrats’ message is remarkably disciplined. They are speaking with one voice, Chuck Schumer’s.

    They will repeat two key words: Nixon and Watergate.

    Their meaning is clear: Comey was fired to cover up Trump’s crimes.

    Here is their message:

    • Trump, not some underlying, is the person who fired Comey.
    • Trump fired Comey because the FBI was getting to close to uncovering malfeasance by the Trump campaign and transition.
      • This is focused on Russian collaboration with Trump and usually implied rather than asserted directly. Why?
        • First, the intelligence agencies agree that Russia actively meddled in the US campaign, sought to harm Hillary Clinton, and favored Trump.
        • We know that some Trump advisers had connections of various sorts to Russian entities. The most important is Michael Flynn, who was briefly the National Security Adviser. There are reports that he and his associates are now under investigation by a grand jury. Some questions have also swirled around Paul Manafort, head of Trump’s campaign in the summer, and Carter Page, a lower-level figure.
      • Key question: Do the connections between the Trump team and Russia rise to the level of collaboration? If so, that would be a huge scandal and lead to calls for impeachment. If such evidence were found and were convincing, many would consider it a “high crime and misdemeanor.”
        • So far, no evidence of such collaboration has been found. Senior figures of the intelligence community, associated with the Obama Administration, have specifically said that they have looked and that there is no such evidence.
    • Because Trump “interfered” with the FBI, which was investigating the Russia issue, we cannot leave this investigation to the Congress or Department of Justice.
      • Key claim: We are now seeing a Watergate-style coverup by the Trump Administration since they cannot fairly investigate themselves and we cannot count on the FBI, the DOJ, etc.
      • Key demand: We must have an independent special counsel to investigate
      • This demand will receive unanimous backing from Democrats, I expect, and has already received a lot of vocal support from them.
      • The demand will succeed politically if the public thinks there is a coverup and enough Republicans agree that an independent counsel is needed.
    • What’s missing from the Democrats’ argument?
      • None of them actually defend Comey or say he should have been kept in the job. They can hardly make the affirmative case since they have repeatedly called for him to be fired.
      • They simply say “the timing is bad” or “looks suspicious.” But they would have said that if Trump had fired Comey on Day 1. They would have said Trump is trying to stop an on-going investigation.
      • They have not produced any evidence that the firing was actually related to the coverup of a crime, which was the essence of the Watergate firing of Archie Cox and his associates.
      • They have not explained why the firing of Comey impedes the Senate investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
    • What to expect?
      • Democrats will keep pushing hard to get an independent counsel and, if possible, stop Trump’s policy agenda by tying up the Congress and undercutting public support for him.
      • Hearings, of course. Lights, camera, preening. The goal of public hearings is to push agendas, not discover information. And the Democrats have a perfect opportunity here.
      • huge fight over whoever Trump picks as the new FBI director. The fight will be less intense if the nominee is a highly-regarded, career professional, but the Democrats will still use the selection and confirmation hearings to slash and burn the Trump administration.

        ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    What are Republicans saying?

    They have said, or will say,

    • Comey deserved to be fired for cause, totally unrelated to any Russian investigation.
    • Rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey, making it impossible for him to lead the agency.
    • Senators from both parties had already expressed their lack of confidence in Comey.
    • There is zero evidence, so far, of collusion between Trump and the Russians, much less that Trump was trying to stop any investigation (the obstruction of justice charge against Nixon).
    • If you D’s think Comey is so great, why did you call repeatedly for him to be fired? That is, R’s will try to get D’s to defend Comey, an untenable position, and move them away from simply attacking Trump and the Republicans.
    • The acting director at the FBI is a dreadful candidate to lead the agency, even in the interim. Why? Because his wife, an unsuccessful candidate for local office in Virginia, was handsomely funded by Clinton confidante, Terry McAuliffe. At the very least, that was a horrible judgment, given the FBI’s interest in the Clinton machine.

    Significantly, I expect Republican activists to demand a fresh start to several failed investigations Comey led.

    They think Comey botched them and that the DOJ blocked them under Lynch and Holder. Besides thinking that’s true–and wanting to get evidence that it is–they would be happy to distract attention from incoming fire.

    • Why, they ask, were all Hillary’s aides given immunity without an indictment in prospect for the bigger fish, the one with the private, unsecured server? Why was no Grand Jury empanelled? Why didn’t the FBI interview Hillary under oath? Why wasn’t the Clinton Foundation seriously investigated?
    • They will want a major investigation of the Obama Administration’s alleged spying on Americans, including members of Congress, the Trump team, and so on. If such spying really did take place, and if it was directed against political opponents, that is a scandal as big as anything since Watergate.
    • They want to know exactly who ordered all the unmasking of names, which should be readily available, and they will want to know the purported national security purposes for the large number of such requests from the White House. They will note that Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, has already refused to testify voluntarily on that issue.
    • They know the leaking of Flynn’s name was a felony, and they want to see an indictment in that case.

    My guess: if the Democrats look like they might get a special prosecutor for the Russia issue, the Republicans will want one for the Obama spying.

    The Republicans in Congress know–or ought to know–that if Trump’s firing of Comey takes firm root as a major scandal, an attempted coverup by the White House, then the GOP’s grip on power will slip away.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, April 23

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

     French head to polls in first round of Presidential election amid tight security. (France 24) The four candidates offer starkly different paths forward. ZipDialog will discuss the two finalists after they are chosen.

    Comment: The stakes go well beyond France. They involve the future of the EU, NATO, immigration, and the economy. Several candidates have ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia, as well.

     A memory from the 1950s: Producer who rigged quiz shows dies at age 95  (New York Times) Now, for $64,000, can you name that producer?

    Albert Freedman, the producer who was pushed by a competing program’s sponsor (Geritol), to find a more appealing figure to appear as winner. He found Charles Van Doren, told him how the scheme would work, and got him to come on Freedman’s program, “Twenty-One.”

    Comment: What Freedman and Van Doren did was standard show biz tinsel–costume jewelry presented as diamonds. But it was the honest 1950s and the quiz shows were being presented as authentic, so its discovery created a huge national scandal.

     In a successful operation, the Surgeon General is removed, replaced temporarily by his deputy  (Washington Post) No side effects.

    The removed physician, Vivek Murthy, was a controversial appointment because the biggest item on his c.v. was his political support for Obama.

    The interim replacement is Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams.

    Comment: Trump’s political opponents think the frontrunner is Dr. Nick Riviera.

     Headline of the Day: “Florida state senator who resigned over racial slur hired former Playboy, Hooters models (Fox News)

    The Florida state senator who resigned this week after using a racial slur previously hired a former Hooters “calendar girl” and a Playboy model with no political experience to be consultants for his political action committee.

    The PAC for Florida state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, hired the women last year and paid them a total $3,500, The Miami Herald reported Saturday, based on state records. –Fox News, based on Miami Herald reporting

    Comment: Gee, I wonder why you would hire the beautiful women with no political experience as consultants? Hmmmm.

     The Palestinian Authority pays a monthly salary to the families of terrorists who kill innocents. It is their standard policy. Their favorite targets are Jews. The money, of course, comes from western donor governments, who have not insisted that this stop or that their official school textbooks stop their deadly incitement and remove vicious anti-Semitic materials.

    Comment: Beyond shameful. Morally disgusting–both for the Palestinian Authority (of course) and for the donor governments who say nothing. They know their money is fungible, and they know the P.A. is directly subsidizing terrorism, yet they say little and do not insist on a change.

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     Much appreciation to Israel Pickholtz for his information about the Quiz Show Scandals (now updated) and his clarifying question about the Palestinian Authority’s payments to terrorists.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 26

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

     The main news continues to be the aftermath of Republican failure to repeal-and-replace Obamacare.

    The main political questions:

    • Who wears the jacket?
    • How does it affect Trump’s legislative agenda going forward?

    The main practical question:

    • How will this affect ordinary Americans who need health insurance?

     Here’s a shocker: Russian police arrest people protesting the regime’s corruption.  (Washington Post)

    Comment: They will have a hard time buying life insurance.

     North Korean missile failure “won’t stop Kim Jong Un Trying to Strike U.S.” says NBC News.

    Analysts said it may be a mere bump in the road, and do little to dissuade North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un from his ultimate objective of building a nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

    Comment: This program poses a serious threat to the US, indeed an existential one. Several previous administrations have been unable to stop it and, so far, the Chinese (NK’s main external supporter) has been unwilling to press them.

     Today in Obvious: New York Times says “Paul Ryan Emerges from Health Care Defeat Badly Damaged”

    Comment: The Freedom Caucus doesn’t trust him, and everyone else wonders if he has the clout to get anything controversial passed.

    Since the bill didn’t make it to the Senate, Mitch McConnell remains unscathed.

     Chuck Schumer says delay vote on Gorsuch for Supreme Court because of “Russia Probe” (The Hill)

    Comment: Yeah, like that delay is going to happen. This is just sliming.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, March 22

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

     Gorsuch cruises through hearing: Democrats spend a very long day attacking, but they don’t land a punch.

    The best the Washington Post can do is “Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch stresses his independence from President Trump.”

    Comment #1: As if any nominee with an IQ bigger than his shoe size would say anything other than “I am completely independent of the president who nominated me.”

    Comment #2: The Democrats explicitly stressed their support for a “living Constitution,” without saying what restraints they would place on Constitutional interpretation.

    They also highlighted cases where the judge’s decision varied from their policy preference; he rebutted, in a calm way, that he simply interpreted within the four corners of the law. A draw.

    Quick hint for Al Franken: do not attempt to best a skilled professional in constitutional interpretation. If Franken could be embarrassed, he would be.

    Chuck Schumer pointedly noted that no Democrats have yet endorsed Gorsuch. That sounds like they want to filibuster. Frankly, if they do that to Gorsuch, the Republicans will reasonably conclude that no Republican nominee is acceptable to Democrats. That may please their base, but

    • They should realize that Republicans will reciprocate when the tables are turned; and
    • They should recognize that their hard-line opposition gives the White House incentives to pick future candidates who only need to win support from the Republican Senate Caucus.

     Tea-Party Conservatives say they have the votes to block Trump/Ryan healthcare bill.  (Fox News)

    Comment: Who knows? They might have the votes today, but not Thursday. We’ll know if Speaker Ryan postpones the vote.

     Philadelphia’s District Attorney indicted on bribery and fraud charges  (New York Times)

    A 50-page, 23-count indictment accused Mr. Williams of accepting lavish gifts — including trips to a Dominican resort, Burberry accessories, checks for thousands of dollars and a custom sofa worth $3,212 — from businessmen for whom he was willing to do favors. The indictment also accused Mr. Williams of diverting money from a relative’s pension and Social Security for his personal use. –New York Times

     Paul Manafort, former chair of Trump campaign, faces corruption allegations in Ukraine  (Washington Post)

    Comment: The good news for Manafort is that nobody thinks Ukraine is a model of legal purity. The bad news is that he could well be under investigation from a far more serious organization, the FBI.

    Sean Spicer seemed to have trouble remembering that Manafort had more than a passing connection to the Trump campaign. Embarrassing to see the President’s Press Aide deliver this nonsense.

     Britain’s Labour Party, the very definition of “loony left” under Jeremy Corbyn, hemorrhaging members and voters  (The Guardian, UK) 

    Comment: They are not serious competitors for national leadership and won’t be until they jettison Corbyn and return to mainstream policies.

     

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