• Trump Campaign worker, Carter Page, Won’t Talk to Senate Intel Committee

    Politico reports that Page will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

    He was a low-level aide in the Trump Campaign and never met the boss. He did, however, have connections with Russia, though he has repeatedly denied he did their bidding.

    A former naval-officer-turned-energy consultant, Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser not long after, with former officials saying that Page and Trump had never met. –Politico

    Comment:  It is unclear if his refusal is related to the Mueller investigation, but it could well be. Page, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort are all in the crosshairs, according to media reports.

    Anybody facing potential indictments would be advised by lawyers not to say anything.

    Page is a small fish. Presumably, Mueller’s team would want information from him, but it is not clear if he has any or knows about others approached by the Russians.

  • How the NSA Found Out the Russians had Hacked It

    Israel hacked Russia’s Kaspersky cyber labs, found code that could only have come from the NSA, then told the Americans (Washington Post)

    In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

    Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.

    Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage –Washington Post

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, September 30

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

    ◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward

    Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.

    So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.

    We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.

    Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.

    Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone. 

    Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.

    Mike Pence protégé, Seema Verma, seen as frontrunner to replace Price: She has deep experience running government health care programs (New York Post)

    Verma currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act.

    Verma led Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid when Pence was governor.

    Comment: Experience is essential. HHS has 80,000 employees and a $1 trillion budget.

    Indiana has been one of the three or four best-run state governments for two decades or more. Running programs there is high praise. Running them in Illinois normally leads to indictment.

    Victor Davis Hanson on “A Lying Quartet”: The Obama Officials who Surveilled their Political Opponents (American Greatness)

    The names are familiar:

    Susan Rice
    James Clapper
    John Brennan
    James Comey

    With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.

    Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.

    So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson

    Colin Kaepernick: Imperfect Messenger. Donated $25,000 to group named after convicted cop killer who broke out of jail and fled to Cuba (Daily Mail)

    Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.

    Comment #2Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Kaepernick story 

    ◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 20

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

    Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela 

    It combined two main elements:

    1. A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
    2. Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order

    The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.

    He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.”  He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).

    He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

    His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.

    Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.

    As CNN put it, “No American President has ever spoken to the world like this,” calling terrorists and some nations “evil.”

    The best comment about the speech came from

     

    Rich Lowery in the National Review Online:

    As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.

     Two natural disasters: 

    1. Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
    2. Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.

    Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.

    Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.

    Republicans on the hill embrace big tax cuts, even if they increase the deficit (New York Times)

    Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

    The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.

    Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.

    Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.

    Former Chicago cop, wanted for shaking down drug dealers, has been arrested in Detroit after 15 years on the run (Chicago Tribune)

    He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.

    Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week

    They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)

    This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.

    NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.

    When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum

    Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:

    President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes

    The MEF report on the incident is here.

    Paul Manafort wants investigations of leaks, which may have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s office, which is trying to rachet up the pressure on Manafort (Reuters)

    “If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].

    “The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.

    The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters

    Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.

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  • Chelsea Mourning: Harvard Students in a Snit over Her Cancellation as a Fellow

    Well, maybe “fellow” isn’t such a good title, either.

    In any case, Harvard students know oppression, imperialism, capitalism, and heteronormativity when they see it, and they are shouting back.

    Here’s the headline in the student newspaper:

    Outcry After Chelsea Manning Dropped from IOP Fellowship (The Crimson, Harvard)

    Controversy enveloped the Kennedy School of Government this weekend as critics on campus and around the country castigated the school for rescinding Chelsea Manning’s appointment as a visiting fellow this fall.

    Facing criticism on-campus and nationwide, Dean of the Kennedy School Douglas W. Elmendorf rescinded Manning’s invitation in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday, calling her selection a “mistake.”

    Now the school faces a fresh wave of controversy as commentators lambast Harvard’s decision to disinvite Manning, a transgender activist whose prison sentence former President Barack Obama commuted in 2017. –The Crimson

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    The Aggrieved Left Pushes Back

    They and Chelsea Manning are “Victims”

    The pushback from the campus left, which now sees itself in its preferred position of “blameless victim,” includes a letter condemning the university for dropping the Manning offer:

    In light of her selfless sacrifices as a whistleblower, her dedication to the truth, and her commitment to human rights, we call upon the Harvard Kennedy School to reinstate Chelsea Manning’s designation as a fellow at the Institute of Politics,” read the letter, signed by the Trans Task Force, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and the Anti-Islamophobia Network, among several other groups. –Letter from student organizations supporting Chelsea Manning appointment at Harvard, quoted in The Crimson

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    The Crimson’s Reporting: Fair and Competent

    The Crimson article, it should be noted, is fair-minded and includes on-the-record quotes from university members on both sides of the controversy.

    Its reporting on a disputed left-right issue is actually superior to that of the NYT, Washington Post, and other media.

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    Framing This Issue is Contentious

    Comment: This dispute is framed in quite different ways by the opposing sides–and that framing matters.

    The left sees it as primarily a snub to Manning because of her gender reassignment.

    The right sees it as a reasonable decision about someone who leaked classified information.

    The left sees the leaking as a valuable public service.

    The right sees it as a crime that was properly punished by a court-martial.

    Both sides see the designation as a “Fellow” of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as an honor. One sees it as well deserved, the other as an endorsement of espionage.

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    FYI: The headline of this post, “Chelsea Mourning,” is a nod to Joni Mitchell:

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    Thanks to the wonderful Belladonna Rogers for this story

  • Remembering a GREAT spy, who located the Nazi rocket program at Peenemünde

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    Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, Valiant World War II Spy, Dies at 98

    A French native who spoke flawless German, she was

    an amateur spy who passed a wealth of information to the British about the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets during World War II and survived stays in three concentration camps for her activities. –New York Times obituary

    She used skill and charm, hiding her sharp mind and photographic memory as she interacted with German officers in Paris.

    She was a favorite with the German officers, who were completely unaware that the woman they knew as Madeleine Chauffour had been reporting to a French intelligence network, the Druids, organized by the Resistance.

    Getting wind of a secret weapons project, she made it her mission to be on hand when the topic was discussed by the Germans, coaxing information through charm and guile.

    “I teased them, taunted them, looked at them wide-eyed, insisted that they must be mad when they spoke of the astounding new weapon that flew over vast distances, much faster than any airplane,” she told The Washington Post in 1998. “I kept saying, ‘What you are telling me cannot be true!’ I must have said that 100 times.”

    One officer, eager to convince her, let her look at drawings of the rockets. –New York Times

    She gave her information to the French resistance, who passed it to London. That information included

    precise details about operations at the testing plant in Peenemünde, on the Baltic coast in Pomerania; and showed planned launch locations along the coast from Brittany to the Netherlands.

    Relying on this information, the British organized several bombing raids against the plant, which delayed development of the V-2 and spared untold thousands of lives in London. –NYT

    The Times obituary includes stories of her escapes from German imprisonment and more.

    It’s a helluva tale.

    Rest in Peace, Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, a hero of the French Resistance.

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  • Suddenly, North Korean rockets are much better. Why? NYT says they bought engines from a Russian-linked firm in Ukraine

    The New York Times is reporting important news: “North Korea’s Missile Success is Linked to Ukrainian Plant

    That plant, which has historic ties to the Russian missile program, sold North Korea the equipment on the black market, according to classified assessments by the US intelligence community.

    Such a degree of aid to North Korea from afar would be notable because President Trump has singled out only China as the North’s main source of economic and technological support. He has never blamed Ukraine or Russia, though his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, made an oblique reference to both China and Russia as the nation’s “principal economic enablers” after the North’s most recent ICBM launch last month.

    Analysts who studied photographs of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the new rocket motors concluded that they derive from designs that once powered the Soviet Union’s missile fleet. The engines were so powerful that a single missile could hurl 10 thermonuclear warheads between continents.

    Those engines were linked to only a few former Soviet sites.–New York Times

    Comment: This assessment (assuming it is accurate and accurately reported) raises disturbing questions about Russia’s malign role in this crisis.

    If the Ukrainian plant still has strong ties to Russia, then it would not transfer such lethal materials without political approval from Moscow.

    The intelligence report could lead to even worse bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow, already at their post-Cold War low.

    It also raises the possibility (discussed in previous ZipDialog posts) that if Beijing edges away from Pyongyang, then Moscow could step in as a diplomatic supporter.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup: Breaking News for Tuesday, August 8

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

    ◆ BREAKING: North Korea now making miniaturized, missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say (Washington Post)

    North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.

    The new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller. –Washington Post, reporting on Defense Intelligence Agency

     

    North Korea’s dangerous game: Trump is not Obama (BESA, Israeli think tank)

    Pyongyang uses the buzz that accompanies its ballistic missile and nuclear tests, as well as the obscurity that conceals the extent of its infrastructure for weapons grade fissile materials production and nuclear weaponization, as tools with which to challenge Washington. Trump is not Obama, however. Kim Jong-un will need to tread carefully to avoid provoking an American preemptive strike. — Raphael Ofek for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

     Robust US economy: Record number of job openings (Bloomberg)

    The gain in job openings underscores the need for workers in an economy that’s continuing to expand. At the same time, the pool of qualified Americans is shrinking and making some positions tougher to fill, one reason economists expect the monthly pace of hiring will eventually cool. –Bloomberg

    Comment: Great news. Now, to get wages moving up and people trained to fill those openings.

     Google fires author of viral memo on the downside of diversity hiring (Bloomberg)

    Google was already being sued for discrimination, and some executives said that, after the memo, they could not “in good conscience” assign some people to work the memo’s author, James Damore. They claimed his memo “perpetuated gender stereotypes.”

    Mr. Damore’s own response, which virtually nobody prints begins this way:

    I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.
    Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber. –James Damore

    James Damore’s complete, original memo and response are here (Medium.com)

    Comment:

    • Expect him to sue.
    • Expect him to find it hard to gain employment in Silicon Valley.
    • Expect an honest discussion of these issues to become impossible.

    More troubles for Obamacare: Major insurers keep leaving the marketplace (Fox News)

    Exchanges are now down to 3 states. Insurers lost over $1 billion in last two years.

     

     

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