• 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 Friday, April 21

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

     ISIS terror in Paris’ Champs-Élysées

    Comment: Why would Islamic terrorists strike so close to the election, in such prominent spot? What’s the logic?

    They surely know it will increase support for the most hardline anti-Islam candidates. They must calculate that such candidates will strengthen their own radical basic in poor, bitter, poorly-integrated areas in France and across Europe. That is, they want to drive a wedge between French Muslims and the rest of the country, hoping the Muslims will then side with ISIS.

    The high-profile attack also signals strength to their supporters around the world. They are saying, in effect, that we may be losing their territorial Caliphate in Iraq/Syria, but we can still cause death and destruction to the Infidels. Of course, all non-Muslims and perhaps even Muslims who are not in ISIS are infidels.

    Meanwhile, Europe itself is in the midst of a cultural, political, and organizational crisis, besieged on several fronts with no clear leaders and confusion over what to do about Islamic immigrants, Russia, the EU, and Turkey.

     US intel agencies reexaming leaks, could indict Julian Assange and WikiLeaks (CBS)

    They are also engaged in a major hunt for the sources of multiple devastating releases of information, some to WikiLeaks, some to news outlets.

     VERY prominent financial exec says there are “some warning signs [in the economy] that are getting darker” (Bloomberg)

    The comments came from Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager (over $5 trillion). Fink stressed how much depends on corporate earning and political action in Washington.

    The stock market needs validation that U.S. corporate earnings will stay strong and that the policies of President Donald Trump regarding taxes, regulation and infrastructure will advance in Congress in order to move higher, Fink said.

    “If we don’t have earnings validated in these higher P/Es [price/earnings ratios] we could adjust downward 5 or 10 percent from here,” Fink said. “If the administration does succeed on some of these items then the market will then reassert itself going higher.” –Larry Fink, interviewed by Bloomberg News

     Fine piece on the Mississippi Delta blues, local food, and other attractions in Clarksdale and points south  (Jackson, MS, Clarion-Ledger)

    It comments on the Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood, Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, and a lifelong favorite of mine, Chamoun’s Rest Haven (Lebanese food) in Clarksdale.

    Comment: The omission of Abe’s Bar-B-Q is a serious error of omission that should be corrected immediately by the Clarion-Ledger.

    People don’t go to Abe’s for the view or white table cloths. They go for some serious pulled-pork sandwiches.

    In other Mississippi news: Gov. Phil Bryant vetoes a budget line-item spending $50,000 on a PR campaign telling people wild hogs are dangerous. His point: they are dangerous, but you should already know that unless you are an idiot. He was more polite.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, March 25

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

     House Republicans cannot pass healthcare. What happens to the rest of their agenda? 

    The proposed reforms were blocked by fiscal conservatives.

    Big loss for Ryan, Trump.

    Americans now stuck with Obamacare as it implodes.

    Comment: Like a major earthquake, this will come with big aftershocks. The most important are 

    • Will voters go berserk over the Republicans’ failure to carry out their biggest promise over the past seven years?
    • How weakened are Ryan and Trump? Will R’s start eating their own?
    • How will this affect Trump’s proposed tax reforms, on which there are also big splits among Republicans, especially over the “border adjustment tax”?
    • What will happen to Obamacare, now that America is stuck with this clunker for the foreseeable future?

    Count on this: Republicans will do nothing to save the Affordable Care Act from self-destruction.

    Democrats will then blame R’s for not fixing the law (“every law needs a little tweaking,” they will say, disingenuously).

    Then, everybody blames everybody for the resulting mess and real pain as insurers pull out of the market, rates go up, and so on.

     Aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal:  Jury finds Penn State ex-president Graham Spanier guilty on one count of child endangerment (Morning Call, Allentown, PA)

    Spanier was acquitted of the more serious felony charges, but the jury said he still did not do enough to stop Jerry Sandusky’s predations. He could face up to 5 years in prison.

    Note to ZipDialog readers: When stories have strong local content, as this one does, I look for the best local news sources. Their reporters know the stories in more depth.

     Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos touts affordable higher education during visit to Orlando community college  (Naples Daily News, FL)

    Comment: This story has a personal meaning for me. My son, Jon, graduated from this college, Valencia, and transferred his credits to the University of Central Florida, also in Orlando.

    I completely agree with DeVos’ point about affordability, not only because tuition is low but also because students often live at home and work part-time.

     A Federal judge in VA rules Trump’s travel ban is constitutional. No practical effect since two other judges have ruled the other way. (CNN)

    California Upholds Auto Emissions Standards, Setting Up Face-Off With Trump  (New York Times)

    Mr. Trump, backing industry over environmental concerns, said easing emissions rules would help stimulate auto manufacturing. He vowed last week to loosen the regulations. . . . .

    But California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act, giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the auto industry. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards . . . .

    Now, the question is how — or whether — the Trump administration will handle California’s dissent. The administration could choose to revoke California’s waiver, at which point experts expect the state would sue. –New York Times

     Next month, Tesla will start taking orders for its new solar roof tiles  (Bloomberg) Will look like regular tiles from most angles. Likely to be a premium product since they mimic terra cotta and slate.

    The roof tiles are made of textured glass. From most viewing angles, they look just like ordinary shingles, but they allow light to pass through from above onto a standard flat solar cell. The plan is for Panasonic Corp. to produce the solar cells at Tesla’s factory in Buffalo and for Tesla to put together the glass tiles and everything that goes along with them. –Bloomberg

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 24

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

     Repeal and Replace goes down to the wire. Vote postponed Thursday, will happen Friday

    The Washington Post reports the President gave holdouts a clear choice: “Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on”

    The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled negotiator capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims. If the measure fails, it would be a defeat for Trump in his first effort to help pass major legislation and it may also jeopardize other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.

    Defeat would also mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place. –Washington Post

     Democrats Plan to Filibuster Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch  (New York Times)

    To break the filibuster, the Republicans need 60 votes and, according to the NYT, they don’t have the 8 Democrats they need to do that.

    Comment: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is playing to his enraged, activist base. I see two main consequences, one for elections, two for the Senate.

    1. D’s from states Trump won by significant margins are made much more vulnerable. They will have to vote with the party base or the larger electorate in their states.
    2. Mitch McConnell will toss out the 60 vote filibuster rule for Supreme Court  nominees, following Harry Reid’s precedent in overturning it for all other federal appointments.
      • McConnell didn’t hold this position open–blocking hearings for Obama nominee, Merrick Garland–to let the Democrats block this appointment.
    3. The change in Senate rules, executed mostly by Reid, alters that body in fundamental ways. It now looks much more like the House, where a simple majority is enough to ram through legislation if you can whip your party in line.

     The NYT’s spin misses the main story:

    Their headline: Devin Nunes Puts Credibility of House Panel He Leads in Doubt

    The real headline story:  Devin Nunes says he has hard evidence the Trump Transition team was spied on; Hints at “smoking gun” connecting spying to Obama Administration (ZipDialog post)

    Nancy Pelosi clearly did not like Nunes’ doing this. She called him a stooge. Presumable the 4th one.

     London’s terror killer identified as Khalid Masood  Now, the Brits want to know how he slipped through their net (Independent, UK)

    Comment: Actually, he slipped through the net twice. The intel services didn’t connect his name to terrorism; they just knew him as a criminal. At this point, nobody knows whether he was connected to a wider network or not. Second, Masood slipped through an open gate and got very near Parliament itself.

    That said, British and European counter-terrorism services face overwhelming tasks. Decades of anti-Western immigrants, who have failed to assimilate, have been systematically ignored by political leaders who thought–quite wrongly–that “nobody would come to Britain [or Belgium or France or ….] unless they wanted to become like us.” Nope. And simply celebrating it as “multiculturalism” turned out to be a catastrophic failure, as Theresa May has recognized.  

    This problem goes far beyond beefing up domestic intelligence and policing. That’s part of the answer, but the problem is much larger.

     Former Russian lawmaker, critical of Putin, gunned down in broad daylight in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. (CNN) Denis Voronenkov joins a long line of former Putin critics. The suspected killer was himself killed by Voronenkov’s bodyguard.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Thursday’s killing a “Russian state terrorist act” on Twitter, and described Voronenkov as “one of the key witnesses of the Russian aggression against Ukraine” — referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and a subsequent war with pro-Russian rebels. –CNN

    Ukraine’s president called it an “act of terrorism.”

    Comment: This killing makes Pres.-elect Trump’s excuses for Putin, especially those in his 2017 Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, all the more noxious (Transcript here)

    “But he’s a killer though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”

    “There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent.”

     Bright Future for Solar Energy in India: Hopes for a booming domestic market and exports of solar panels manufactured there (Business Insider) PM Narendra Modi wants to spend over $3 billion aiding the industry. In a country where some 300 million are not connected to the grid, the government hopes to draw 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 18

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

    ◆ Happy St. Patrick’s Day

     House, Senate Republicans don’t care for Trump’s Budget (Washington Post)

    • Defense not raised enough, say hawks
    • Welfare programs cut too deeply, say some rural congressmen

    Nobody thinks the budget is going anywhere. Obama’s didn’t, either.

    The House GOP plan to revise the Affordable Care Act is embattled, as is Trump’s push to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. His tax reform and infrastructure plans have yet to get off the ground.

    As he passes the halfway mark of his first 100 days, Trump is under increasing pressure to show that he can make good on his ambitious promises. –Washington Post

     Two Federal judges block Trump’s latest travel ban (New York Times)

    Comment: I am no lawyer, but I do think about constitutional issues. In the temporary immigration ban and court rulings, I see several thorny constitutional/legal issues:

    • First, the President has very clear, wide-ranging statutory authority to issues these bans, using his national-security authority
    • The President’s authority in this area has not been limited by Supreme Court rulings, as far as I know
    • On the other hand, the US does have various laws, court rulings, and regulations that prevent religious discrimination and prohibit “religious tests.” The courts blocking Trump seem to rely heavily on those laws and rulings.
    • To say that non-citizens, who are not already on US soil, have some constitutional rights related to our immigration laws is very striking–and perhaps novel. The courts know that and have been very reluctant to even make those arguments. They seem to say that the rights apply to US citizens who want their sister to come here from a banned country. Whether that is a stretch or not will have to be determined by higher courts.
    • The courts’ rulings against Trump explicitly say they are not ruling based solely on the text of the Presidential order. Rather, they are “putting this it in context.” The context is that candidate Trump explicitly promised a ban on Muslim immigration. Since the banned countries are Muslim, that must have been his intent. (His counter-argument is that other Muslim countries are not included in the ban and, in any case, the courts have no business ruling on this matter, which is solely within the President’s discretion.)
    • SUMMARY COMMENT: I see four big questions here.
      1. Should court rulings be limited to a law’s explicit text or should they take into account the broader political “context” (and, if so, how should judges determine the appropriate context)?
      2. Previous court decisions (on other issues) have explicitly ruled that a candidate’s statements are not relevant to subsequent laws and regulations, passed after the candidate takes office. Why shouldn’t that restriction apply here?
      3. Do these courts imply that non-US citizens, who are not already on US soil, have some constitutional rights that the courts must protect?
      4. Are these rulings–and the clear distaste for Pres. Trump they evince–the prelude to courts assuming a much larger role in national-security issues than they have previously? That would be an important change. It would also put the courts in an very tenuous position. They lack the information (including classified information) and the expertise to make policy judgments in this area. That is why they have normally deferred to the President unless there were clear constitutional violations. The courts are vulnerable to arguments that they are overreaching to impose their own preferred policies in an area where they should be more restrained. They would rightly receive withering criticism if those rulings lead to bad outcomes.

     Syria fired missiles into Israel after the Israeli Air Force struck targets in Syria (Associated Press)

    Israeli Channel 10 TV reported that Israel deployed its Arrow defense system for the first time against a real threat and hit an incoming missile intercepting it before it exploded in Israel. –Associated Press

    The Jerusalem Post also has a story, reporting Israeli air defense sirens sounded in the Jordan Valley.

    Comment: Israel has been very careful about being drawn into the Syrian conflict, but it does have two vital interests that could lead to military strikes. Both involve Iran. The Israelis do not want to see Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shipping missiles to Hezbollah (based in southern Lebanon) through Syria. They have bombed those shipments when they learn of them. They are increasingly concerned that the Iranians are moving troops into Syrian territory bordering Israel.

     US economy’s strength apparent in new data on housing, unemployment, and consumer confidence (Reuters)

    Interest rates are slowly returning to normal, too, after years of near-zero rates, designed to buoy a flagging economy.

    U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data as investors digested the Fed’s decision on Wednesday to raise its overnight benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a range of 0.75 percent to 1.00 percent. The U.S. central bank also forecast two more rate hikes this year. —Reuters

     Venezuela: When a socialist economy has no bread, they know exactly how to solve the problem. They nationalize the bakeries(Miami Herald)

    Comment: Sean Penn had no comment.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Barry Shaw
     for the Israel missile story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, February 22

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

     Two fascinating articles by Paul Roderick Gregory investigating Russian hacking (Forbes.com)

    The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.”  …

    That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. –Paul Roderick Gregory for Forbes

    Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, specializing in Russia, and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution

     “Actually, Sweden is having big trouble with Mideast refugees,” writes Rich Lowry, who focuses on economic issues rather than crime  (New York Post)

    By welcoming a historic number of asylum-seekers proportionate to its population, Sweden has indeed embarked on a vast social experiment that wasn’t well thought-out and isn’t going very well. The unrest in the Stockholm suburb of Rinkeby after police made an arrest the other night underscored the problems inherent in Sweden’s immigration surge.

    Sweden’s admirable humanitarianism is outstripping its capacity to absorb newcomers. …

    There’s a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native-born (82 percent) and the foreign-born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. …

    The fiscal cost is high. According to Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji, the country spends 1.5 percent of its GDP on the asylum-seekers, more than on its defense budget. Sweden is spending twice the entire budget of the United Nations high commissioner responsible for refugees worldwide. Pressed for housing, Sweden spends as much on sheltering 3,000 people in tents as it would cost to care for 100,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. –Rich Lowry for New York Post

    ◆ There is better news from Sweden: “Confused Randy Elk Mounts Wooden Elk in Swede’s Garden” (The Local, Sweden)

    Actual quote from the article:

    “I shouted at him ‘get lost’, but he didn’t give a toss,” [79-year-old Ove] Lindqvist said, explaining that the elk only left once it was content. –The Local

    Apple iPhones working for real-time facial recognition to log in  (Fox Tech)

    Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

    Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface’s software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication. –Fox Tech 

    The Times of Israel story on the buy-out is here.

    Israel is a high-tech powerhouse, and Apple has moved to capitalize on those capabilities, purchasing four Israeli high-tech firms in recent years.

     Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel Prize economist and a true great, has died, aged 95  N (New York Times)

    When Professor Arrow received the award in 1972, [Paul] Samuelson wrote, “The economics of insurance, medical care, prescription drug testing — to say nothing of bingo and the stock market — will never be the same after Arrow.”

    Professor Arrow — a member of an extended family of distinguished economists, including Professor Samuelson and Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and adviser to President Barack Obama — generated work that was technically forbidding even to mathematically oriented colleagues.

    But over the decades, economists have learned to apply his ideas to the modern design of insurance products, financial securities, employment contracts and much more. –New York Times

    The extended obituary concludes with a wonderful story about his prodigious, wide-ranging learning:

    Eric Maskin, a Harvard economist and fellow Nobel winner, told of a good-natured conspiracy waged by junior faculty to get the better of Professor Arrow, even if artificially. They all agreed to study the breeding habits of gray whales — a suitably abstruse topic — and gathered at an appointed date at a place where Professor Arrow would be sure to visit.

    When, as expected, he showed up, they were talking out loud about the theory by a marine biologist — last name, Turner — which purported to explain how gray whales found the same breeding spot year after year. As Professor Maskin recounted the story, “Ken was silent,” and his junior colleagues amused themselves that they had for once bested their formidable professor.

    Well, not so fast.

    Before leaving, Professor Arrow muttered, “But I thought that Turner’s theory was entirely discredited by Spencer, who showed that the hypothesized homing mechanism couldn’t possibly work.” –New York Times

     

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  • Tweet of the Day: Crime in Sweden

    At the Trump rally in Melbourne, Florida, the President indicated there had been a terrible event “last night” in Sweden.

    Since nothing out of the ordinary had happened, the bien pensant began mocking him relentlessly.

    My FB and Twitter feeds were filled with their cackling, “Pray for Sweden.”

    ACTUALLY . . .

    There is significant crime associated with Sweden’s immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. There are areas where the local police fear going and, since saying so is a “thought crime,” they don’t talk about it publicly. Don’t want to be prosecuted by Big Brother, who does not accept truth as a defense.

    Beside the increased crime, immigrants are also causing two major problems for Sweden’s welfare state. The first, and most obvious, is that they need (and demand) costly social services and income support. The second, and less obvious, is that the entire Swedish welfare state depends upon mutual trust that recipients are honest. Rampant fraud, stemming from the immigrant community, is undermining the system’s foundation of trust.

    AS IF ON CUE

    After the laughter at Trump had faded, the impossible happened: last night really did sink into rioting. A Swedish police officer stopped an immigrant for some violation and was attacked by rock-throwing miscreants, who then led their fellows into an all-out riot.

    The rioters clearly have a rich sense of irony.

    PRAY FOR SWEDEN

    Nothing to see here, said all my friends who, only the day before, had posted the mocking phrase, “Pray for Sweden.”

    They could use prayer now, but none of those folks are posting.

    It could be worse. Just imagine what would happen to them if they actually prayed as Christians or Jews in that “immigrant community.” And you think stoning police was bad.

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day

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

     What a Mess: Mike Flynn, National Security Adviser, “resigns”  Obviously, he was forced out. My hunch is that the problem was not talking with the Russians, despite the legal problems that raised and the DOJ’s suggestion, leaked to the WaPo, that it could leave Flynn open to blackmail. Nope, the real problem was lying about it to VP Mike Pence, who (in good faith) repeated the lie. Mike Flynn just learned you cannot do that and survive in this White House.

    Now, the Trump White House must right this ship quickly because there is considerable pressure from America’s adversaries and hard policy choices to make–and make soon.

    Flynn’s interim replacement is his number two, Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Jr. (age 72). It is unclear if Trump considers him a possible long-term replacement.

    Comment: My hunch is that Trump will turn to Mattis, Coats, and Corker, all experienced Washington hands, for advice on this choice. All are reliable, experienced hands in foreign policy who know the potential candidates and the policy issues they will face. James Mattis is Sec. of Defense; Dan Coats, a former Senator, is Director of National Intelligence, and Bob Corker is current head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Normally the Sec. of State would be involved, but Rex Tillerson is new to Washington and not yet familiar with all the candidates. Mattis, Coats, and Corker not only know the players, they know how the National Security Council should run. Trump would also be wise to turn to former Sec. of Defense Bob Gates and former Sec. of State (and NSC Adviser) Condi Rice for guidance.

    The first name they will have to decide on is Gen. David Petraeus, the most effective military leader in America’s unconventional wars and then head of the CIA.  The question is whether his enormous expertise offsets his baggage from mishandling of classified documents.  Note that the National Security Adviser does not require Senate approval.

    Second CommentThe talking heads will all say, “This is a huge mess this is for the new Trump Administration.” That’s right, and I have already said so myself. But the mess is only half the story. Trump has also shown that he is willing to cut his losses and make hard choices clearly, decisively, and quickly. He did it during the campaign, when he fired two successive campaign leaders who were falling short and finally got the team he wanted. He didn’t let this issue linger, either. That sends a strong message to all his senior appointments: “I hold you accountable. Produce results at the standards I expect or I will fire you.”

     One of the main security challenges for any administration is cyber. David Benson, an expert in the subject, gives a very positive review to Martin Libicki’s new book, Cyberspace in Peace and War  

    Cyberspace in Peace and War is a very good book. While the disordered state of cyber-strategy makes it impossible to write the “final” work on the subject, Libicki imposes order upon an incredibly wide ranging topic. –David Benson, writing at “The Bridge”

    The book treats both technical and strategic issues, but, as Benson makes clear, its focus is on international strategy.

     Dutch professor Ruud Koopmans gives the EU a deeply troubling report on Muslim views  (Daily Mail)

    Koopmans said that of the 1 billion adult Muslims in the world, ‘half of them are attached to an arch-conservative Islam which places little worth on the rights of women, homosexuals, and people of other faiths’. –Ruud Koopmans in the Daily Mail

    Koopmans estimates that at least 50 million are “willing to sanction violence” and thinks that is likely an underestimate.

    In several Islamic countries, 14 per cent of local Muslims think suicide attacks against innocents are ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justified to defend Islam, said Koopmans, citing a study by the US-based Pew Research Center. –Daily Mail

    Koopmans, from the Netherlands, leads a major university center for migration research in Berlin.

    Comment: Western governments have focused, understandably, on the problem of violent immigrants, but Koopmans is highlighting a second grave problem: large numbers of Muslims who seek to live in the West but reject its basic norms and values. The same hostile views are often held by the second and third generation of these migrants.

     True: America’s top fortune cookie writer has “writer’s block” and is stepping down after three decades (Fox News)

    For 30 years, Donald Lau has been the “Chief Fortune Writer” at Wonton Foods, a manufacturer that touts itself to be one of the world’s largest producers of fortune cookies.

    But now,Lau is leaving his position following a long bout of writer’s block.

    According to Good Food, 4.5 million cookies are produced by Wonton Foods each day. –Fox News

    Comment: No one saw it coming.

     After senseless delaying tactics by Senate Democrats, the body finally approves Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary  (New York Times)

    Comment: Yeah, like the country actually needs a Treasury Secretary.

    I am not arguing the merits of Mnuchin’s candidacy here. I am saying that once the Democrats had produced no information to sink the nomination and it was clear he would win Senate confirmation, dragging it out for weeks with delaying tactics is harmful to the country.  Blame Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.

     

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