• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, September 23

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

    ◆ John McCain puts a dagger in the heart of “repeal and replace.” Won’t support bill of his close friend, Lindsey Graham (New York Times)

    Comment: There is still a thin path, but it is only a sliver since several Republicans are likely “no” votes.

    Even if the Senate passes something, it might not make it through the House.

    If this bill fails, as expected, then Congress will move onto tax reform and tax cuts.

    Trump in his element: Gives a rousing speech to enthusiastic crowd in Alabama, offers strong support to underdog Senate candidate, Luther Strange (Al.com)

    Comment: Strange is running behind former Alabama state judge, Roy Moore, who redefines the word “controversial.”

    Besides the usual kind words for “Big Luther,” Trump underscored two points.

    1. Strange had given him crucial support on legislation without making demands (Trump emphasized the Senator’s loyalty to him, Trump, and not to Mitch McConnell).
    2. Strange is sure to win in the General Election; Moore is far less certain to win, though Trump said he would back him in the general.

    Handling Sexual Assault Investigations on Campus: Sec. of Ed. Betsy DeVos Reverses Obama-Era Policy (New York Times)

    The nub of the matter: Under Obama, standards of proof were lowered significantly. DeVos is allowing colleges to raise the standard, once again, to “clear and convincing evidence.”

    DeVos on Friday scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault, saying she was giving colleges more freedom to balance the rights of accused students with the need to crack down on serious misconduct.

    The move, which involved rescinding two sets of guidelines several years old, was part of one of the fiercest battles in higher education today…

    The most controversial portion of the Obama-era guidelines had demanded colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault, a verdict that can lead to discipline and even expulsion. On Friday, the Education Department said colleges were free to abandon that standard and raise it to a higher standard known as “clear and convincing evidence.” –New York Times

    The Obama Administration lowered the standard unilaterally, without the normal discussion associated with regulatory changes. They simply sent colleges a “dear colleagues” letter of advice that effectively told them what they had to do to keep their federal funds.

    FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, hailed DeVos’ decision: “Dear Colleague: It’s over! Education Department rescinds controversial 2011 letter”

    Comment: It is fitting that the Obama Administration skirted all procedural restrictions to impose its policy. That’s exactly what Campus Kangaroo Courts do.

    Second, since colleges can now set their own standards of proof, expect the battle to shift there. Administrators are in total control of these campus investigations, so the wrongly-accused students’ main hope will be federal courts.

    Responding to the Opioid Crisis: CVS will limit prescriptions to 7-day supply (CNN)

    Comment: The scale of the emergency is staggering.

    Every three weeks, the number of Americans who die from drug overdoses equals the deaths in the Twin Towers.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for September 2

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

    ◆ Melania Trump–to her great credit–wore high heels to Texas today. 

    Comment: I normally would not comment on such trivia. But the haters in Manhattan, Cambridge, and San Francisco and their fellow travelers in the media made it a big deal on Melania’s trip earlier this week.

    It was their behavior, not her’s, that was disgusting.

    By wearing high heels today instead of sneaker, she effectively gave the finger to the haters. This from the NY Post:

    Btw, you might not remember that the media said nothing about Michelle Obama’s shoes or outfit during the Hurricane Sandy relief.

    Know why?

    She didn’t bother to visit.

    ◆ Corrupt justice? Comey wrote his “no charges against Hillary and friends” memo long before the FBI interviewed all the key witnesses

    He will wriggle out of any legal trouble. He told Congress he did not make a decision until after the interviews. That now seems like perjury. But he will claim that the memo was merely a draft.

    Equally damning was his decision to let two people who demanded immunity in the investigation sit in on Hillary’s interview. No prosecutors ever do that.

    Comment: This whole thing stinks.

    California prosecutor, leading a murder trial against a gang, beaten unconscious “Buckets of blood” from her (CBS Los Angeles)

    No robbery. No sexual assault. Just a beating.

    Comment: Sounds like a message.

     Good News in Higher Ed: Turns out parents and students shy away from colleges that cave to far-left demonstrators. Mizzou and Evergreen State pay the price. (Fox News)

     

    The University of Missouri had to temporarily close seven dormitories – renting them out for special events, such as homecoming games – and planned to cut 400 jobs. –Fox News

    Bad news: The level of political correctness has reach ridiculous levels: Students at the Univ of Minnesota vote down remembrance of 9/11 out of fear it would “incite racism” and “offend Muslim students” (Minneapolis Star Tribune) 

    Comment: The refusal of students to attend schools without robust free speech is the best sanction of all.

    Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of administrators like the loss of revenue.

    Meanwhile, the locust-plague of social justice warriors continues on many campuses, shutting down free speech, often with help from the university administration.

    Judge Richard Posner retires from senior status. Most important judge in US not on Supreme Court (Chicago Tribune)

    Posner [age 78] said in a statement he has written more than 3,300 opinions in his time on the bench and is “proud to have promoted a pragmatic approach to judging.” He said he spent his career applying his view that “judicial opinions should be easy to understand and that judges should focus on the right and wrong in every case.”

    Posner’s biting and often brilliant written opinions as well as his unrelenting questioning from the bench have made him an icon of the court for years.

    Known as a conservative at the time of his appointment, Posner’s views skewed more libertarian through the years, and he often came down in favor of more liberal issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: I have known Judge Posner for many years, as a neighbor and a colleague. And, man oh man, do the lawyers who appear before him tell stories bout his razor-sharp tongue on the bench and his penetrating questions.

    In every generation, there are one or two judges not on SCOTUS who have enormous impact because of their clear thinking and writing. Judge Posner was the one of his generation. His academic impact was equally vast since he helped forge the entire field of “law and economics” (essentially the application of microeconomic logic to a wide range of legal issues).

     

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 30

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

    Kim Jong Un keeps up his threats, calling his recent missile launch over Japan a “meaningful prelude” to “containing Guam” (Fox News)

    The mid-range missile he launched this week is specifically designed to carry nuclear payloads.

    Comment: This deliberate escalation and incendiary rhetoric by North Korea, plus their rapid technical advances, are bringing this issue to a head.

    An environmental mess: A powerful, new herbicide, designed to be used with genetically-modified soybeans–has drifted onto untreated farms, killing their crops (Washington Post)

    The damage here in northeast Arkansas and across the Midwest — sickly soybeans, trees and other crops — has become emblematic of a deepening crisis in American agriculture.

    Farmers are locked in an arms race between ever-stronger weeds and ever-stronger weed killers.

    The dicamba system, approved for use for the first time this spring, was supposed to break the cycle and guarantee weed control in soybeans and cotton. The herbicide — used in combination with a genetically modified dicamba-resistant soybean — promises better control of unwanted plants such as pigweed, which has become resistant to common weed killers.

    The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster. Critics say that the herbicide was approved by federal officials without enough data, particularly on the critical question of whether it could drift off target. –Washington Post

    The problem is dicamba’s toxicity to unmodified plants:

    According to a 2004 assessment, dicamba is 75 to 400 times more dangerous to off-target plants than the common weed killer glyphosate, even at very low doses. It is particularly toxic to soybeans — the very crop it was designed to protect — that haven’t been modified for resistance. –Washington Post

    Comment: Everybody is suing everybody.

    How will “Trump Republican” candidates and Trump himself affect the 2018 Senate elections? (New York Times)

    The news hook is the entry of a Trump ally, Rep. Lou Barletta, into the crowded Republican field against Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey.

    The announcement by Representative Lou Barletta gives Republicans a relatively well-known challenger to Mr. Casey as the party tries to take advantage of an electoral map that heavily favors Republicans. But it also shows the political headwinds the Republicans face: The party’s base voters remain loyal to the president and his agenda, even as the larger electorate drifts away. –New York Times

    The electoral map should favor Republicans.

    Thirty-four senators — 25 aligned with the Democrats and nine Republicans — are up for re-election next year. While Democrats are defending 10 seats in states won by Mr. Trump, only one Republican — Senator Dean Heller of Nevada — is seeking re-election in a state carried by the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. –New York Times

    Will the supplemental appropriation bill for Hurricane Harvey include other items?

    Sen. Ted Cruz and others had claimed that the relief package for Hurricane Sandy included many such items, but that was not the case, according to the politically-neutral Congressional Research. Washington Post report here.

    Correction: Yesterday, ZD reported there had been pork in the final Sandy bill. There was pork in the Senate version (Cruz fought to take it out), but little or none in the law ultimately passed.

    Some good academic news: Several Ivy League professors, led by Princeton’s Robbie George, circulate a public letter telling students to think for themselves

    The letter puts it well:

    The love of truth and the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself. The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry. –Letter to incoming students (link here)

    Comment: The letter itself is excellent.

    The fact that such basic values are currently unfashionable is a fundamental crisis in higher education.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Ken Freed for the Hurricane Sandy relief bill correction

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Princeton story

  • After scandal, Cambridge University Press changes policy; will NOT censor articles to please Chinese government

    ZipDialog recently reported that Cambridge University Press had caved in to the Chinese government’s pressure and removed articles from its online journals that offended the Beijing government.

    The demand to remove the articles came from China’s General Administration of Press and Publication, which warned that if they were not removed the entire website would be made unavailable in China. –Washington Post

    CUP abject compliance was a serious breach of academic integrity.

    Fortunately, there was strong blowback from free-speech and human-rights advocates (including this blog), highlighting CUP’s disturbing appeasement. Lots of academics were involved–on the right side.

    Now, under this pressure, Cambridge has caved again, flipping its policy.

    In reversal, Cambridge University Press restores articles after China censorship row(Washington Post)

    The British-based publisher announced Friday it had removed 300 articles and book reviews from a version of the China Quarterly website available in China at the request of the government. But on Monday, it rescinded that decision after outrage from the international academic community.

    It said the original move had only been a “temporary decision” pending discussion with academic leadership of the University of Cambridge and a scheduled meeting with the Chinese importer in Beijing.

    “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based,” it said in a statement. “Therefore, while this temporary decision was taken in order to protect short-term access in China to the vast majority of the Press’s journal articles, the University’s academic leadership and the Press have agreed to reinstate the blocked content, with immediate effect, so as to uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the University’s work is founded.” –Washington Post, quoting CUP

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    Comment: This reversal is good news, despite the Press’s “cover your arse” language about this being temporary. It wasn’t. It was appeasement and it would have lasted if there had not been counter-pressure.

    Second, ask yourself whether this decision ever could have been made if, as the press says, “Academic freedom is the overriding principle on which the University of Cambridge is based.”

    Of course, it couldn’t.

    Clearly, that principle was not enough to convince CUP to do the right thing in the first place.

    Only the blowback convinced them.

    I assume that lots of academics were planning to resign from working with CUP or its journals, and I assume that some people higher up in the university got wind of this atrocious decision by the Press.

    People should be fired over this. They simply do not belong at an academic press.

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    Thank you to Prof. Vincent Wang for this valuable update.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 25

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

    ◆ Speculation grows that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement.

    The current Court year ends Monday, and any announcement would come soon after.

    Kennedy is 80, was appointed by a Republican, and has served 29 years on the Court, recently as a crucial swing vote.

    There are several elderly Democrats on the court, but they want to hang on (if health permits) in hopes of another Democratic president.

    Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have lawyered up to defend against allegations of bank fraud(CBS)

    When Jane was president of Burlington (VT) College, she got big bank loans for an expansion project that ultimately failed and bankrupted the college.

    The investigation is (1) whether the loans were based on Jane’s false representations about the college’s fundraising and (2) whether Bernie used his office to pressure the bank to make the loan.

     The battle for post-ISIS Syria is shaping up

    The background: the Obama Administration did nothing in Syria and pulled out of Iraq, opening the door wide for Iran to control Baghdad and Damascus (the Assad government) and providing political space for ISIS to build its “caliphate” for Sunnis.

    The change: Trump dramatically altered US policy, and, under the leadership of Mattis at DOD and McMaster at NSC, the US has been taking the fight to ISIS.

    The result: Iran is closing in on ISIS from one direction, the US from the other.

    There are three big issues in this end-game:

    1. Will ISIS turn to move civilian attacks in Europe (and possibly America)?
    2. Will US and Iranian forces be able to avoid direct military confrontation as they converge on ISIS’ last strongholds
    3. Who controls what territory in post-ISIS Syria?

    An excellent primer on the emerging issues is Udi Dekel’s “East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State” from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS, Israel)

    The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria. –Udi Dekel

    ◆ Political correctness to stop free speech in Arkansas? Yep.

    But the University stepped in and did the right thing.

    The Univ. of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies decided to hold a symposium on honor killings.

    The Center’s director, a geosciences professor named Tom Paradise, included Prof. Phyllis Chesler (from CUNY) on one panel since she has published widely on the subject, arguing that scholars have underplayed the role of Islam in these killings.

    Three Arkansas professors raised holy hell about it, saying the could never “countenance” Chesler’s participation, even though it would simply be a Skype call.

    The Center caved and disinvited Chesler, according to an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

    Now, the University has done the right thing.

    They removed Prof. Paradise from the center’s leadership, saying “The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution.”

    Comment: The university did the right thing.

     Palestinians “disappointed” after “tense meeting” with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special emissary (The Hill)

    Key disagreement: US wants Palestinians to stop paying terrorists for killing Jews.

    Palestinian Authority likes paying them. Abbas told Trump it would stop and simply assumed the president knew he was lying.

    Trump held him to account.

    The PA has also been adamant about keeping incendiary, anti-Semitic materials in their school textbooks.

    The larger problems for Abbas: no succession lined up, and the Middle East is moving forward without them.

    Comment: My guess: Trump will look at Kushner’s report of the meetings and decide this is not a good time to push forward with negotiations.

    Trump has always understood something about these negotiations that most presidents don’t: the US can help if both parties want an agreement. But it cannot force an agreement on parties that don’t want one and aren’t prepared to make serious concessions.

     Oklahoma doctor prescribed so many painkillers, she’s being charged with murder in one patient’s death  (Washington Post)

    The patient, Sheila Bartels, received

    what drug addicts call “the holy trinity” of prescription drugs: the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant known as Soma.

    In total, pharmacists handed her 510 pills that day — all legal, because she had a prescription with the signature of her doctor, Regan Ganoung Nichols, scrawled at the bottom, according to a probable cause affidavit. –Washington Post

    Comment: Cracking down on excessive prescriptions is crucial in this fight.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Sam Stubbs
     for the Sanders bank fraud story
    ◆ Gregg Roman for the University of Arkansas speech-suppression story

     

  • 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.”

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    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

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, June 7

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

     ISIS attack at the heart of Iran’s government is stunning. ISIS, a Sunni group, has been under attack by the Iranian-led Shia forces in Iraq and Syria, and now they’ve struck back.

    The spectacular event is designed to humiliate the Iranians and show that ISIS can strike anywhere, even hard targets in a hostile country.

    Comment: More as it develops. 

     Qatar Qrisis: Trump suggests he led Saudis to act against Qatar’s support of terror (New York Times)

    Comment: True and dumb. True because Trump’s meetings in Saudi Arabia were a key to the new pressure the Arab states are putting on Qatar. Not smart to trumpet the US role when you are relying on others to lead. Makes them look like lap-dogs. 

     Two big stories broken by ABC News:

    1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign because Trump was furious Sessions had recused himself in Russian investigation
    2. Former FBI Director Comey will not say Trump tried to obstruct justice

     Sessions offer to resign (ABC) Jonathan Karl reports:

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

    The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on. –ABC News

    At a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer would not say whether Trump still supported AG Sessions.

    Comment: First, Sessions was right to recuse himself.

    Second, it’s over; he’s already done it; let it go, Donald.

    Third, if your earliest and strongest supporter from the Senate is not comfortable in the Cabinet, who will be?

    Four, this is still more evidence that, in this ship of state, everybody is rowing in different directions and the captain keeps changing course. What’s missing: self-discipline and a solid staff, given some authority to create order.

     Comey will stop short of saying Trump obstructed justice in Flynn probe (ABC)

    Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.

    The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.

    The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.

    “He is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns,” the source said, and tell the committee “what made him uneasy” and why he felt a need to write the memo documenting the conversation. –ABC

    Comment: Here’s how I read that. Comey cannot say the president tried to obstruct justice without creating big problems for himself. He would be legally required to report it and, if he had any integrity, would have resigned. Also, he subsequently testified to Congress that no one had tried to obstruct his investigation.

    Given those constraints, he will do everything in his power to destroy Trump.

     Comey himself is being sued over an alleged coverup; a whistleblower says he gave Comey evidence of a huge, illegal surveillance operation on Americans by the CIA (using FBI computers) during the Obama administration (Circa)

    A former U.S. intelligence contractor tells Circa he walked away with more than 600 million classified documents on 47 hard drives from the National Security Agency and the CIA, a haul potentially larger than Edward Snowden’s now infamous breach.

    And now he is suing former FBI Director James Comey and other government figures, alleging the bureau has covered up evidence he provided them showing widespread spying on Americans that violated civil liberties.

    The suit, filed late Monday night by Dennis Montgomery, was assigned to the same federal judge who has already ruled that some of the NSA’s collection of data on Americans violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, setting up an intriguing legal proceeding in the nation’s capital this summer.

    Comment: Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon have done first-rate reporting on potential violations of civil liberties by US intel agencies.

     Why did Trump decline to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as he promised during the campaign?

    Because he thought it would hamper his goal of an “ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, says Eytan Gilboa  (Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan University)

    Trump completely reversed the attitude of Obama, which verged on hostility, towards both the pro-American Arab states and Israel. –Eytan Gilboa

     Excellent news: One of the country’s staunchest, most experienced advocates for free speech, Adam Kissel, has been to head the Dept. of Education’s higher ed programs  (Inside Higher Ed)

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 5

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

     UPDATE ON London Terror (from the BBC). Police

    • Know the attackers’ identities,
    • Have detained a “number of people” after searches in East London, on top of 12 people arrested Sunday in Barking
    • Report 21 people are still in critical condition.

    With three attacks in three months, terrorism against soft targets is beginning to feel, to some people, like the new normal.

    The brutal reality is that this kind of threat is absolutely typical of what jihadists sought to achieve in all their attacks across Europe.

    Since 2013 security services in the UK have foiled 18 plots. A large proportion of those have involved suspects who set out to commit acts of violence similar to the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

    Plans to use bombs, such as at Manchester Arena, are rarer because plotters need to have the technical skills for such an appalling attack – but attacking people with cars and knives is far easier and has long been encouraged by so-called Islamic State and other jihadists. –BBC

    Comment: The number of potential jihadis in England is beyond the authorities’ ability to track. The number of soft targets is beyond their ability to protect.

    That means hard political choices are coming, not just in England but across Europe to staunch this threat.

    The public simply will not accept this as the “new normal.”

     Dividends from Trump-Saudi talks to contain terror

    The Kingdom, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its constant support of terrorism. CNN reports Bahrain’s tough statement:

    Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to interfere in its affairs, to continue the escalation and incitement of the media, and supporting armed terrorist activities, and financing groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and the principles of international law without regard to values, law, morals, consideration of the principles of good neighborliness, or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations, and the denial of all previous commitments. –CNN

    Since the US has a major base in Qatar, there are direct implications for the US. As CBS headlines it: Major U.S. military ops based in Gulf nations in throes of deep diplomatic rift

    Comments:

    • The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is noteworthy; they have been grumpy with each other recently.
    • CNN’s story fails to mention Trump or the major meeting during his visit that launched this initiative.

     Since we are talking about CNN’s bias: They were just caught staging a “news event” to fit their narrative.

    They even had the white British police officers leave the frame; they were replaced with Asian officers.

    Comment: If CNN fakes the news, how will airport passengers know what is happening?

     One of those lovely stories about private generosity: 70 years ago, a man (now aged 98) bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. Now, it’s worth $2 million, and, since he doesn’t have a family, he’s giving all of it to his favorite charity: the Illinois Audubon Society. (Fox 32 story here)

     Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says “no smoking gun” on Trump-Russia. He quickly adds “at this point”  (The Hill)

    He did say that Trump telling Comey to “let it go” would be “very concerning,” if Comey confirmed it.

    Comment: If there is hard evidence the Trump campaign really did cheat to throw the election, let’s see it. If there is none, let’s get back to governing the country. 

     New chancellor at U. of Missouri says diversity on campus must include “diversity of thought” (Heat Street)

    Comment: The university’s enrollment plummeted, along with its finances, after 2015 demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, threats against student reporters (“get some muscle over here”), and a spineless administration that couldn’t roll over fast enough. Now, they have a new leader on campus with a different idea.

    The question is whether he can implement it and withstand the pushback.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 2

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

     The big news is President Trump announcing the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, with predictable reactions

    Analysis

    • All Democrats denounced Trump for two reasons: abdicating US leadership of a multilateral effort and weakening commitment to environmental protection
    • Centrist Republicans and virtually all big businesses opposed the withdrawal; Mitt Romney was very vocal about it, for instance
    • Trump’s base loved it and loved his dual rationale: jobs and America First.

    The arguments for the agreement are that America has isolated itself from a global movement, backed by scientists, that supports collective action to slow global warming, some of it man-made.

    The counter-argument is that the costs to the US are very high but positive effects on the climate are vanishingly small. There is also a fairness and effectiveness argument that China and India’s sweet deals (basically, they don’t have to do anything) mean that some of the world’s biggest polluters are unchecked by this deal.

     What is being overlooked in the furor over the withdrawal? That the process by which the US entered the accord. That created its own problems.

    The Paris deal was never a treaty, only a presidential agreement (like the Iran Deal). After all, treaties need ratification, and that’s a higher hurdle. Why not just let the President sign it himself, call it something besides a treaty, and skip that whole pesky ratification thingy?

    That’s just what President Obama did with the Paris Climate Agreement, and just what he did with the Iran nuclear deal. The US seems to be abandoning the quaint idea that its major commitments should be treaties, just as it has abandoned the idea that it should vote to declare wars. We’ve been at war repeatedly over the last few decades, but the last war the US declared was on December 8, 1941.

    Avoiding the treaty process comes at a price, however. What one president signs, the next one can undo. That’s what Pres. Trump did on Thursday.

    There is a second, less obvious problem that is also being overlooked. US environmental groups were planning lawsuits to compel the government to implement Obama’s promises under the Paris Accords. Of course, the environmental bureaucracies themselves would want to implement those promises, too. The substance of those actions might be good or bad, depending on your perspective, but no one could argue that they were determined by laws passed by Congress and signed by the President.

    Skirting these constitutionally-designed, democratic processes has become a standard feature of modern American government.

    It has been a hallmark of progressivism from the beginning, in the early 20th century. A core principle of the progressive movement, initially aimed at corrupt, big-city patronage machines, was decisionmaking by “disinterested” experts: technocrats. Today, that has morphed into rule by regulation, with regulations poured out of bureaucracies whose employees are immune from firing because of civil-service protections (a key feature of the progressive program, designed to block firings by partisan politicians).

    So, one hidden effect of the withdrawal is to slow the pace of new environmental regulations, which the EPA would issue to implement the Paris Accords, either of its own volition or because the courts required them.

     Trump administration asks Supreme Court to Reinstate its Travel Ban  (New York Times)

    Comment: We don’t know if the Court will take the case. If it doesn’t, the lower court decisions to block Trump’s order will stand.

     Mitch Daniels, the nation’s most innovative university leader, discusses Purdue’s purchase of for-profit Kaplan  (Indianapolis Star)

    Purdue President Mitch Daniels painted the move as Purdue’s ticket into the future.

    “None of us know how fast or in what direction online higher education will evolve, but we know its role will grow and we intend that Purdue be positioned to be a leader as that happens,” Daniels told the Education Writers Association.

    Daniels has been working to make a Purdue education more accessible since stepping onto the West Lafayette campus. Purdue’s been on a tuition freeze since 2013, became the first major U.S. research university to offer income-sharing agreements and struck a deal with Amazon to lower textbook costs for its students.

     

    The bid to acquire Kaplan, though, is taking innovation to a new level and was seen as a tectonic shift in the higher education landscape when it was announced unexpectedly in April. –Indianapolis Star

     Massachusetts judge denies defendant’s motion to juggle–yes, juggle–at his trial  (AP, via St. Mary Now, Louisiana)

    The defendant, who is representing himself, wanted to juggle to show “he was just clowning around when he allegedly tried to rob a convenience store with a toy gun.”

     

     

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