• ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 4

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

     England’s third major terror attack in 10 weeks raises fundamental questions about how to prevent these assaults

    Comment: Kudos to the London police for their immediate response. It was swift, sure, and effective. 8 minutes from first incident to squads arriving in force. Their swift action prevented countless additional casualties.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    The problem is how to prevent these attacks, both in the short run (surveillance, arrests, etc.) and long run (tougher restrictions on immigration and rethinking the obvious failure to integrate the communities into the liberal west).

    All Europe is facing a high threat from Islamic extremists, many (like the Manchester bomber) born in the very Western countries they are terrorizing.

    As ISIS is squeezed abroad, they will try to revive their organization by killing in Europe.

    Ordinary Europeans will refuse to live in perpetual terror and demand answers from their failing political leaders.

     US media reported the London attack, wall-to-wall, but buried one aspect of the story. Any guesses? You are correct.

    I explain the MSM’s fecklessness, and illustrate it concretely, in a separate post, here. I call it PC BS.

     In happier news, one of baseball’s all-time greats, Albert Pujols become the 9th player to hit 600 homers. (ESPN) The cherry on top: it was a grand slam. Another cherry: it comes in the post-steroid era. His head and arms actually look human. 

     Japan holds evacuation drills as North Korea’s nuclear program advances  (Reuters)

    Comment: The Japanese navy is also conducting joint exercises with the US fleet.

    My sense is that the Chinese are playing rope-a-dope, doing a little to slow down Pyongyang but not nearly enough. That is simply unsustainable for the US and Japan.

     Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell hopeful on tax cuts, less so on healthcare  (Reuters)

    Comment: Tax reform is essential, and the Republicans know it, not just for the economy but for their reelection.

    On healthcare, the pressure in late autumn, when next year’s premium notices go out, will be enormous. Obamacare is melting down, and that means suffering. The Republicans will point at Obama and the D’s. But that won’t cut it. People elected the R’s to fix it.

     California progressives really, really want single-payer, and they want their state to provide it. (Fortune)

    The state Senate, with a big Democratic majority, passed it easily. They skipped over the pesky problem of paying for it. (Honestly, they did absolutely nothing about funding it.)

    How expensive would it be? $400 billion. That’s huge. More than twice as big as the entire state budget today.

    No one knows if the State Assembly will pass it or if Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it.

    Naturally, they would need to heft tax hikes to pay for it, but economic studies show there is still a big shortfall. (ABC News)

    Comment: The leading Democratic contender for Governor, Gavin Newsom (former mayor of S.F.), put on his tin-foil hat and strongly backed the single-payer plan.

     Another “can you top this” in college crazies: Black students at Evergreen State U. in Olympia, WA, demand all white people leave the campus for a day.  (Washington Post) 

    Their demands managed to close the entire school for a day.

    For some reason, not everyone thought this white-leave-campus thing was a good idea.

    One long-time progressive, Prof. Bret Weinstein, did not favor it. And he didn’t like the students’ demands that new academic hires deemphasize academic ability and focus on race/gender/undocumented/social justice/etc.

    As you can imagine, those opposed to Weinstein were not looking for a debate.

    The were looking for blood.

    In fact, the other professors at Evergreen State also turned on Weinstein. (National Review Online)

    It’s so nasty, so crazy that even the NYT’s Frank Bruni writes a column against it. Naturally, he begins by condemning the US, thus establishing his bona fides as a morally superior person, but he still doesn’t like the ideas out in Olympia. It’s a strong column–and one the NYT readership needed to see.

    There are names for people like Frank Bruni. Fascist. Racist. Sexist. Columnist.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Siegler
     and Tom Wyckoff for the Frank Bruni column.

     

  • A Brief Guide to Trump’s upcoming NATO Summit

    What Can NATO Do in Today’s Threatening World?

    May 25, the NATO heads of state will meet in Brussels. It’s an important meeting for the world’s most important alliance, the cornerstone of America’s military and diplomatic partnerships.

    If NATO is important to the US, the US is critical to NATO. It is the organization’s de facto leader because it has the diplomatic and military muscle and because it contributes 70 percent of NATO’s $890 million budget.

    What issues are on the table when Trump arrives in Brussels? The same ones that have plagued the organization since the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
    1. Is NATO obsolete?
    2. If not, what is its mission?
    3. Is NATO a paper tiger? If it is, how can it become more relevant?

    A Little Background

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in the late 1940s to contain the Soviet Union and safeguard the security of its original fourteen state members. It expanded occasionally during the Cold War, adding Greece and Turkey in the early 1950s, for instance, to contain Soviet probes to gain influence (and a warm-water port) in the Mediterranean.

    After the Cold War, NATO took in many of Eastern Europe’s new democracies, former Soviet satellites eager to form close connections with the West. In the process, the original 14 members doubled to twenty-eight, with Montenegro scheduled to become the twenty-ninth.

    NATO is both political and military

    Although the sub-text of NATO’s mission is to prevent conflict, in reality its reason for being is not peace.

    Today, NATO’s primary purpose is to constrain a belligerent and expansionist Russia.

    That is both a political and military task, and NATO has both dimensions. Or, rather, it has them in principle but not always in practice.

    NATO did not respond to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea or its bombing of the Syrian military and civilian opposition. Russia also guaranteed that Syria’s chemical weapon inventory would be totally liquidated. Not so. Last month the Syrian government committed a chemical attack resulting in the deaths of scores of opposition fighters and civilians. Again, NATO did not respond, although the US did with a barrage of cruise missiles.

    How should the US approach NATO now?

    The contemporary threat array facing the US and NATO is
    • Russian expansionism,
    • A hostile ISIS-Islamic Caliphate, and
    • Acts of domestic terrorism, which struck the West again this week.

    What should NATO’s role be in tackling these threats? My assessment is that NATO is still germane to constraining Russia, but it is not capable of countering ISIS or domestic terrorism.

    The US can regain its global leadership responsibility by using and supporting NATO, provided the NATO member states recognize, define, and implement their limited role as diplomats who are dressed in military uniforms. This is an expensive charade.

    The NATO member state budget commitment is two percent of their GDP. Compare the US 3.6 percent contribution and the 2 percent commitment made by Estonia, Greece, Poland, and UK, with the other 23 states that do not meet their commitments.

    NATO should stay in its lane.

    America’s focus–our national interest–lies in protecting the Baltic states from Russian military aggression, providing military weapons to the Ukraine (a non-NATO member), and re-integrate Turkey into NATO.

    The US can regain its global leadership position and responsibility by leading, using, and supporting NATO.

    Bottom Line: Keep NATO, but consider reducing its budget by 50 percent to allay US critics who seek to terminate the alliance because it is not cost-effective.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Richard Friedman was chair of the National Strategy Forum/Chicago. He has served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Counselor to the American Bar Association Committee on National Security.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, May 23

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

     Britain is now on the highest terror alert, with the military deployed.

    Complex terror operations like the one in Manchester are not executed by one man in his early 20s. The race is on to find the rest of the cell before they strike again.

     Crocodile tears from Europe’s clueless politicians. That’s what Bruce Bawer sees in the aftermath of Manchester. He’s furious about a political class that has casually invited a jihad into Europe

    His commentary on the Manchester slaughter is entitled: “Enabling Murder: Western politicians worry more about being called “Islamophobic” than they do about stopping jihadist slaughter” (City Journal)

    He quotes some of the European pols saying how sad they were and then blows them away:

    Meaningless words, all of them. But Angela Merkel takes the cake: “People in the UK can rest assured that Germany stands shoulder to shoulder with them.” Well, isn’t that . . . reassuring. In what way do such words help anybody to “rest assured” of anything? In any case, how dare she? This, after all, is the woman who opened the floodgates—the woman who, out of some twisted sense of German historical guilt, put European children in danger by inviting into the continent masses of unvetted people from the very part of the world where this monstrous evil has its roots. –Bruce Bawer in City Journal

    He concludes with a fierce, dead-on criticism:

    Today, British leaders refuse to deport imams who preach murder but ban from their shores respected writers and knowledgeable critics of Islam who dare to take on those imams and their theology.

    Strength? Don’t you dare speak of strength. You have the blood of innocent children on your hands.

    Comment: Bawer knows it all first-hand. A cultural critic and poet, he moved from America to Europe two decades ago and soon began writing about the hostility he and his gay partner faced from Muslims there, as well as their intolerance toward Westernized women, Jews, and secular law. He has become a vigorous and much-published critic of multiculturalism, which he sees as a disastrously failed experiment. He now lives in Norway. 

     “Obama intel agency secretly conducted illegal searches on Americans for years” That’s the story from Circa, where John Solomon and Sara Carter’s reporting has run circles around the somnolent MSM. To quote Solomon and Carter, who have seen the classified internal reports:

    The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.

    More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa. . . .

    The normally supportive [FISA] court excoriated Obama administration officials. –Circa

    Comment: Why did the Obama administration reveal it at all? My guess: less CYA than telling the FISA Court about it to prevent the Trump Administration from doing the same illegal spying, perhaps on their political enemies. This whole thing is a very nasty piece of work.

     Why the “secular stagnation” of the economy? Nobel economist Robert Schiller, who predicted the housing bubble, has an idea (Here

    His thoughts center on two fears: that jobs are being replaced by technology and that the deep recession of 2008 could recur. Schiller writes:

    My own theory about today’s stagnation focuses on growing angst about rapid advances in technologies that could eventually replace many or most of our jobs, possibly fueling massive economic inequality. People might be increasingly reluctant to spend today because they have vague fears about their long-term employability – fears that may not be uppermost in their minds when they answer consumer-confidence surveys. If that is the case, they might increasingly need stimulus in the form of low interest rates to keep them spending.

    A perennial swirl of good news after a crisis might instill a sort of bland optimism, without actually eliminating the fear of another crisis in the future. –Robert Schiller

     Israel and the Palestinians: Is there any possibility for a settlement?

    One of the most interesting analyses I’ve read comes from Israeli Col. Eran Lerman, writing at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He situates the Israel-Palestinian problem within the larger diplomatic alignment against Iran, led by Trump and the Saudis (reversing Obama’s tilt toward Iran).

    President Trump’s efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table are taking place against the background of a broader effort to recast US policy in the region. The memory of Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s failed effort, back in 1981, to put together a regional “strategic consensus” against the Soviets may have faded, but the idea behind it is making a comeback. Facing the Iranian revolutionary regime and its proxies on the one hand and radical Sunni versions of Islamist totalitarianism on the other, key regional players are now more open than ever to an informal US-led alliance against their common enemies. The semblance, perhaps even the substance, of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front can facilitate this; but even more important would be a firm policy on Iran.

    Comment: Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is still a very long shot, partly because Hamas and Iran would do everything possible to undermine it, partly because any Palestinian political leaders who made the concessions essential to peace would have great difficulty surviving it, much less implementing it effectively.  

     Does good news ever come from Iran? No. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reports:

    Iranians Re-Elect a Fake Reformer in a Fake Election

    Rouhani was the lesser of two evils, but Westerners vastly overestimate what an Iranian president can do. –Bloomberg

     Moody’s downgrades China, warning of mounting debts, weakening finances  (Reuters)

    It’s the first time China has been downgraded in 30 years.

    The one-notch downgrade in long-term local and foreign currency issuer ratings, to A1 from Aa3, comes as the Chinese government grapples with the challenges of rising financial risks stemming from years of credit-fueled stimulus.

    “The downgrade reflects Moody’s expectation that China’s financial strength will erode somewhat over the coming years, with economy-wide debt continuing to rise as potential growth slows,” the rating agency said in a statement, changing its outlook for China to stable from negative. –Reuters

    Comment: If China’s economy continues to slow, the global ramifications will be vast. And the regime will worry more about hanging on to power.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Baehr
     for the Bruce Bawer article
    ◆ Tom Elia for the Circa article on spying
    ◆ BESA for Lerman article on Israel-Palestine

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 18

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

    It’s wonderful to see a growing community of readers here at ZipDialog. Thanks for visiting and for sharing it with friends.

    I hope it really does build a dialog of diverse viewpoints on public issues.

     What does the Mueller appointment mean?

    Here’s my take:

    • The appointment was widely applauded. Everybody said that, if anyone had to do the job, Mueller was the best choice. He is
      • A straight-shooter, not a partisan
      • A work horse, not a show horse
      • An experienced hand at the FBI, which he directed. That means he can get up-to-speed quickly and choose a staff quickly.
      • An experienced prosecutor, who will know what to pursue and what to leave aside.
      • A focused investigator, who is unlikely to go off on tangents, as previous special prosecutors have
    • The appointment decision was made by Rod Rosenstein, the second-in-command at DOJ and, in this case, acting Attorney General because Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
      • Rosenstein continues to acquit himself well. He made the decision himself and simply gave the White House a heads-up shortly before the public announcement.
    • Some strong Trump supporters think a special counsel was not needed and is a victory for the Democrats. They are mistaken, IMO.
      • It is a victory for the Democrats in the sense that they, and not the Republicans, have been seeking such an appointment.
      • But it was essential to restore public trust after the Comey firing and conflicting stories about what caused it, following by Comey’s leaked memo.
      • The reason why the appointment was essential is that only a trusted, non-partisan, and highly-competent investigator, such as Mueller, can clear Trump of the serious allegations against him and his team, namely that they collaborated with the Russians and that Trump tried to kill the investigation in a private conversation with Comey.
        • If the prosecutor or special counsel were tainted, the findings would be, too.
        • If Trump wants to reboot his Presidency and move beyond the Democrats’ unsubstantiated charge that he stole the election and committed a high crime to cover it up, then he needs Mueller and not some toady to say so.
    • The big question about the scope of the investigation is how much it will delve into Russia’s overall involvement in the 2106 election.

    I will stay on top of this issue and, in later posts, will take up other aspects.

    Meanwhile, we need an equally thorough investigation by the intel agencies themselves into who is leaking their crown jewels to hackers and highly-classified material to the Washington Post and New York Times.

     How bad is Turkey’s sinking Islamic autocracy? Erodogan’s thugs beat up protesters in Washington, DC, outside the Turkish Embassy (Washington Post)

    D.C. police arrested two men, one from Virginia and one from New York, and said they are pursuing charges against additional suspects since the melee outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle. Eleven people were injured, among them a police officer. Some were kicked and stomped, their heads bloodied.

    Included in the police search are members of Erdogan’s armed protective detail, according to two people with direct knowledge of the case. –Washington Post

    Comment: This is really nasty and some of the thugs will escape justice because of diplomatic immunity.

     Twenty-one members of the violent MS-13 Gang arrested in LA raid (Los Angeles Times)

    Twenty-one people accused of being part of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang were arrested Wednesday as federal and local investigators forced their way into homes and businesses across Los Angeles County in a pre-dawn sweep that came as a result of a more than two-year racketeering investigation. . . .

    MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, preys on immigrants without legal status.

    “They extort them. They rob them. They rape them. They murder them. Without their cooperation as witnesses, none of this would be possible,” [LA Police Chief Charlie] Beck said, noting that LAPD officers do not check immigration statuses before talking to witnesses. –LA Times

    Comment: This needs to keep going, month after month.

    ◆$ The tech sector is leaving the rest of the US economy in its dust: Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft  (The Verge) Their dominance in the stock market rally is clear-cut.

    It took Amazon 15 years to match the market capitalization of Walmart. Two years later, it is worth more than double its biggest rival. –The Verge

    ◆$ Ben Bernanke says America’s economy is now nearing capacity  (Financial Review, Australia)

    “We’ve got basically a 2 per cent economy here and that means it doesn’t take that much to knock you off track,” Bernanke told attendees at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas. “We have already approached the limits of our capacity and unemployment is pretty much about as low as it can go, so we don’t have that extra capacity to create growth.” –Financial Review

     Here’s what free speech means: Univ. of Chicago students get to hear a talk by the head of Homeland Security and actually engage with a key policymaker on crucial issues  (WLS, ABC7 Chicago)

    Comment: At many universities, the head of DHS, retired general John Kelly, would be shouted down because he is the front line of Trump’s immigration policy and anti-terrorism efforts. Because he was not shouted down, our students got to hear him, ask tough questions, and make their own decisions, without intimidation.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 30

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

     State Department official arrested; accused of economic spying for China  (Los Angeles Times)

    A longtime State Department employee [Candace Claiborne] was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence. –Los Angeles Times

     FBI director Comey wanted to publicly expose Russian spying before the election; Obama White House blocked him  (Newsweek)

    Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. . . .

    [The op-ed] would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.–Newsweek

     Federal Reserve says the US economy is finally back to normal  (CNN Money). Unemployment is officially under 5% and adding 200k jobs monthly, which the Fed considers full employment for its purposes. This data is why the Fed is gradually raising interest rates, hoping to keep the economy from overheating.

     Attorney General for Mexican state of Nayarit arrested in San Diego on drug trafficking charges  (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Comment: You hate to see their courts and law enforcement system besmirched.

     Dead: The misanthrope who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in the late 1960s. It featured recipes for bombs, gun silencers, and all sorts of weapons. It sold over 2 million copies and 

    is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. –New York Times

    Comment: Oddly, given his contributions to this world, he died of natural causes.  I have deliberately omitted his name.

     Headline: “This Chicago man saved $1 million by the time he was 30. Here’s how he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

    Let me explain how he did it:

    1. He made pretty good money, though not fantastic amounts
    2. He didn’t spend very much.

    Honestly, that’s what the article says. And, frankly, it is good advice if you want to accumulate resources and can restrain your consumption.

    Try to make good money and don’t splurge. If your investments get good returns, that helps, too.

    Comment: Works every time.

    But I would add: as you accumulate, give some to worthy charities. Others less fortunate need your help.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Wiretapping Trump Tower: The Allegation is VERY Serious. So Where’s the Evidence?

    The accusation is extremely serious.

    President Trump, by then sitting in the Oval Office, accused his predecessor of authorizing wiretaps on “Trump Tower.”

    Worse yet, he said, the wiretaps were done during the campaign. The clear inference is that the wiretaps were political. A very serious charge, indeed.

    There are three possibilities, and maybe a fourth:

    1. Legitimate reasons for the wiretap that passed muster with a federal judge
    2. Political skullduggery by Obama, a very risky and likely illegal act
    3. A false charge by Pres. Trump, an incendiary accusation, made without any basis.

    There are other possibilities, too. For example,

    • A foreign power or private party could have engaged in surveillance and masked itself as a US agency (or perhaps simply been mistaken for one).

    It is even possible that you US and friendly foreign powers surveil each others’ citizens and exchange information about them to avoid legal restrictions on surveilling their own citizens.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The problem here simple:

    If true, the charge that President Obama ordered this surveillance is a very damaging one since it goes to the heart of our free and fair elections.

    If untrue, then making the charge is damaging to Pres. Trump, whose words ought to carry weight. If the charges are reckless, they damage his reputation–and ours as a country.

    Now’s the time to show some evidence or show some humility and retract.

    That is what Sen. John McCain said, and he is right.

    Instead, Press Secretary Sean Spicer is saying:

    • “Wiretapping” didn’t mean exactly that; it meant any type of surveillance
    • “Pres. Obama” didn’t the President himself; it meant his administration

    CNN’s report on today’s Spicer Press Briefer, where he made these comments, is here.

    Comment: I read Spicer’s comment as

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment #2: Lest the Democrats feel too smug about all this.

    They have been suggesting for months that they lost the election because of the Russians.

    US spy agencies have said that Russians engaged in disinformation, but there is zero evidence they affected the outcome, and the Democrats have presented none.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, February 8

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

     After a bruising battle over Betsy DeVos for Sec. of Education (DeVos was finally confirmed), The Hill reports “Democrats seek new targets

    Comment: Seek and ye shall find. Next in Chuck Schumer’s sights is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the nominee for Attorney General. Then Scott Pruitt for the EPA, Dr. Tom Price at HHS, and Andy Puzder for Labor. The Democrats will drag these out and then lose the votes. The electoral-politics question is whether these slash-and-burn tactics build their base or simply please the existing one.

    Republicans say, rightly, that these Democratic tactics play to that party’s activists and donors and that the minority party can only delay, not stop, the nominations.

    Democrats say, rightly, that they oppose these candidates because of profound policy differences. These nominees will directly attack core Democratic policies; it is hardly surprising that the constituencies built around them are fighting like feral cats.

     Related story: Democrats show fierce anger at Republican lawmakers in town halls  (The Hill)

     “Homeland Security Chief Admits Travel Ban Was Rushed” (NYT headline) 

     This is the kind of innovative cost-savings the private sector can bring to government  (The Postillon, Link here)

     Why Children Ask “Why” and What Makes a Good Explanation  (Aeon)

    Giving a good answer to a ‘Why?’ question is not just a philosophical abstraction. An explanation has cognitive, real-world functions. It promotes learning and discovery, and good explanatory theories are vital to smoothly navigating the environment.

    Results from psychology . . . expose a striking similarity between children’s and scientists’ explanatory reasoning. Both children and scientists look out in the world, trying to find patterns, searching for surprising violations of those patterns, and attempting to make sense of them based on explanatory and probabilistic considerations. Children’s explanatory practices offer unique insight into the nature of good explanation. –Matteo Colombo, writing in Aeon

     “Paul Ryan says Obamacare replacement bill will be completed this year” (Reuters via CNBC)

    Doing that, major tax reform, and something permanent about immigration–all of them demanded by Trump voters–will strain the White House and Congress to the limit, especially because the Democrats will fight them hard.

     The World Foremost Authority, Prof. Irwin Corey, has died, still speaking gibberish at age 102 Prof. Corey was a staple of variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, his disheveled hair pointing in all directions as he mumbled academic-sounding phrases that went nowhere (but pointed the way toward post-modernism).

    The high-point of his career, at least for us academics, was when he fooled the 1974 National Book Awards into thinking he was Thomas Pynchon, accepting the award for Gravity’s Rainbow.

    No one in the crowd had any idea what the reclusive Mr. Pynchon looked like, and when Mr. Corey arrived to accept the award for him (the novelist had approved the stunt), many people thought they were getting their first look at Mr. Pynchon.

    They soon learned otherwise. Beginning his remarks, as he often did, “However,” Mr. Corey referred to the author as “Richard Python” and said, “Today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure.” He continued: “Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium will be the opiate. Ah, that’s not a bad idea.” NYT obituary for Prof. Irwin Corey

    Here is a 1-minute glimpse of Prof. Corey doing his shtick.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ David Wayne Henley
     for the IKEA border wall
    ◆ Harry Bushwitz for “Why Children Ask Why?”

     

  • When Homeland Security Goes Rogue

    One of the most disturbing elements of the 2016 election was Russian interference.

    Denying it, as the Trump side has done, is not believable. There is widespread agreement among US intelligence agencies that the Russians were behind many hacks, including one at the Democratic National Committee, and they were sources of leaks of embarrassing internal documents, which they improperly accessed.

    The Democrats, for their part, have exaggerated the actual impact these hacks on the election outcome. They may have nudged it at the margins, but there is no evidence for Rep. John Lewis’ charge that Russian hacking had such a profound impact that Donald Trump was not legitimately elected.

    Still, the problems are serious and will only become more serious going forward unless the US acts to protect its election process.

    One response, advanced by Pres. Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its head, Jeh Johnson, was to designate the US election system part of the country’s “critical infrastructure,” which would allow DHS to take a much larger role in state and local elections. Regularizing that large federal role would be unprecedented. Currently, Washington steps in to investigate potentially discriminatory voting procedures but, beyond that, only involves itself in local election procedures when specifically ordered by courts. Obama’s DSH wanted to change that.

    State and local officials pushed back to maintain control. One of the most vocal was Brian Kemp, who supervises voting in Georgia (he is secretary of state there).

    Apparently, DHS didn’t like that. In December, it was reported that Georgia’s election offices were, indeed, hacked multiple times, though without any impact on the integrity of the vote. The IP address of the hacker was . . . the US Department of Homeland Security. That, at least, is what Kemp’s office alleges.

    DHS has no legal authority to hack into the Georgia voting system. None.

    Without that authority, their actions are scandalous–and perhaps felonious.

    Now, investigators at DHS want to see Georgia’s records so they can investigate the hacking. Here is a report from a local Georgia outlet.

    Comment: The hacks certainly should be investigated, though I am not confident that the investigation should be carried out by the very department that is accused. If officials at DHS really did this, they should be fired and the cases taken before a Grand Jury.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, January 26

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

     RIP MTM  Love the quote from James L. Brooks, who co-produced the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

    She was brilliant. Nobody Ever Found the Thing She Couldn’t Do. –James L. Brooks in the Hollywood Reporter

    The New York Times obituary is here, with the headline that Moore “Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV.

     Sanctuary Cities to Trump: Drop Dead, Keep Sending Money  The NBC story doesn’t have that tone, but that’s the message. Trump’s response is predictably blunt. (Here)

    Two Comments: First, Trump made a very smart move on this issue early. Until then, the narrative had been “be empathetic with the striving, yearning immigrants.” Trump reversed it: “Be empathetic with the victims of violent illegal immigrants.” He was predictably hyperbolic, of course, and the narrative does not easily generalize to non-violent illegal immigrants, but it was a shrewd political reimagining of the issue.

    Second, a fight with Trump over immigration is one many sanctuary-city mayors and sheriffs relish . . . until the money pinches. Chicago will be a particularly hard fight because Mayor Rahm Emanuel depends on support from Hispanic voters to offset his unpopularity among African-Americans. If he backs down without a smack-down, he’ll lose a key support group.

     Quote of the Day  When asked what he thinks about General Mattis when he was being considered for Secretary of Defense, Rob O’Neill (the man who killed Bin Laden) said:

    General Mattis has a bear rug in his home, but the bear’s not dead. It’s just afraid to move.

     Trump blocks Obama/Kerry transfer of $221 million to Palestinian Authority

    The Trump administration has informed the Palestinian Authority that it is freezing the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours on January 20, a senior Palestinian source has told The Times of Israel.

    US officials conveyed to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. –AP and Times of Israel

     AP: “Trump intends to announce his Supreme Court pick on Feb. 2”

    Comment: If the nominee sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

     Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): Refusing Refugee Admissions is Equivalent to Slavery  (Daily Caller) Trump has issued a temporary stay on visas from several countries with major terror problems, all predominantly Muslim.

    Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, called the proposed border wall a “multi-billion dollar monument to racism.” Awad went on to say that President Trump’s proposal has nothing to do with national security and is strictly an “Islamophobic” proposal. –Daily Caller

    Comment: An extreme left-wing rabbi, involved in many anti-Israeli causes, appeared at the same news conference and said barring refugees from Syria and Somalia is an “affront to God.”

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Sam Stubbs
     for the great quote about Gen. Mattis
    ◆ Ed Lasky for US funding for Palestinians; the story on that yesterday came thanks to Marcia Sukenik Weiss