• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, July 8

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

     The main stories come out of the G20 meetings in Hamburg.

    • Anti-capitalist riots in the street by extreme left and anarchists
      • Comment: Idiots with nihilist agenda
    • Trump has very long 1-on-1 with Putin
      • Full range of issues, beyond US election meddling, with focus on Syrian cease-fire and division of territory there after ISIS defeat
    • Trump has China’s Xi on schedule on 1-on-1 today
      • North Korea is top of the agenda, of course, but also trade
    • Ivanka briefly sits in for Pres at G20 meeting on Africa alongside world leaders  (Washington Post) (Comment: A nothingburger; still, it should have been the Sec. of State sitting there)

    Comment: We won’t know the results (as opposed to the agendas) of the Putin and Xi meetings until the effects on the ground are seen, beginning next week. The fact that Putin and Trump met without advisors is interesting, too. It indicates how serious the leaks are. The US cannot trust anybody to be in room.

    Comment on Silences at G20: This was supposed to be a showcase for German leader, Angela Merkel. She has been overshadowed by Putin, Xi, Trump, and rioters. Second, we have heard little so far about the shared challenges of Islamic terrorism and vast immigration flows from North Africa and the Middle East.

     US B1 bombers fly over South Korea as heads-up to North Korea after its ICBM test  (CNN)

    Comment: The signal is “the US can easily can incinerate you.” The problem is, if we launch a military attack, the North Koreans can kill large numbers in Seoul. Moreover, the Chinese might come in to prevent a Korea unified under American leadership.

    There are no good US options here. My guess is that the US starts to up financial sanctions on all North Korean trading partners, including Chinese banks.

     Venezuela’s top opposition leader released from prison to house arrest  (CNN)

    Comment: The country is tottering toward civil war, and oppo leader Leopoldo Lopez is a threat to the regime. The surprise here is that he did not die in prison.

     Chuck Schumer skewers Rex Tillerson over Russian meddling in US election  (The Hill)

    “For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.” –The Hill

    Comment: Schumer is correct. This issue is not “unresolved.” His base loves it; it reinforces their view that Trump is illegitimate. But voters are interested in forward-looking solutions to real problems in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Schumer knows that, of course, but he has to toss red meat to the base. 

     Morgan Stanley: Renewables will be the cheapest power source within three years (Business Insider)

    Numerous key markets recently reached an inflection point where renewables have become the cheapest form of new power generation.

    A dynamic we see spreading to nearly every country we cover by 2020. The price of solar panels has fallen 50% in less than two years (2016-17). –Morgan Stanley via Business Insider

     K-12 Education: Betsy DeVos takes hard line on enforcing federal laws, surprising states who thought she would support local control (New York Times)

    The basic issue is an Obama-era law, replacing No Child Left Behind, that requires “ambitious” educational goals to meet federal standards. How much latitude will the Washington’s Dept. of Ed. give states to determine for themselves what it “ambitious”?

    “It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” –quoted in New York Times

    Comment: Conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about this issue. They weren’t surprised by Washington’s heavy hand under Obama; they don’t expect it under DeVos and fear they may be getting it.

    Alternative possibilities are that

    • Lower-level officials did this without DeVos’ approval (the person who wrote it is a Democratic advocate for charter schools, appointed by DeVos)
    • The Dept. is actually enforcing the law, as written, until Congress rewrites it

    José Luis Cuevas, a Dark Master of Mexican Art, Dies at 83 (New York Times)

    Comment: He was continually greeted by folks at the bar singing: 

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, July 7

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

     Trump’s speech in Poland: The most important foreign-policy statement of his presidency  (The White House text of the speech is here)

    It was actually quite eloquent, especially in its recitation of Poland’s uprising against the Nazis in August 1944 and the Soviet Army waiting across the river until the Nazis killed all of them. It offered a clear statement about the achievements of the West–achievements worth defending. And it promised strong US participation in NATO.

    It offered a sharp criticism of Putin’s expansive foreign policy and the risks it posed in Europe and the Middle East

    Comment: The Poles welcomed the speech, understandably so.

     McConnell indicates he may not have the votes for a Republican healthcare bill  (The Hill)

    “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health insurance markets must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

    Comment: In other words, I’ll work with the Democrats to do something. In that case, the Republicans might defect. 

    This is turning into one fine mess.

     Leftists, Anarchists clash with German police ahead of G20 summit in Hamburg (Deutsche Welle)

    DW calls them “anti-capitalist protests”

     Muslim groups in Indonesia, Malaysia call for boycott of Starbucks because of its support for gay rights  (Chicago Tribune)

    The groups were apparently reacting to comments made several years ago by former CEO Howard Schultz in support of gay rights that drew renewed attention amid an increasingly anti-LGBT climate in both of the predominantly Muslim countries. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: Gee, I hope this isn’t a setback for “intersectionality” among US progressives.

     CNN’s troubles show up in the ratings. It is now #13. Fox (#1), MSNBC (#2) both doing well. (Scribd)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • Russia enters the North Korea issue–against the US

    What that means and why Putin did it

    Yesterday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke very strongly against North Korea’s nuclear program and ICBM tests, which violate more than a dozen resolutions from the UN Security Council.

    Today, the US began circulating a statement to Security Council members to impose new sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s regime.

    Russia nixed it behind the scenes, arguing that the missile launch had not be verified as an intercontinental missile, even though North Korea said it was and the US verified it. (Report here at the Washington Times)

    Comment: Should make for an interesting meeting between Trump and Putin this week.

    Three larger possibilities:

    1. Russia is signaling Pyongyang that, if China offers less than full-throated support, then Moscow is ready to become a much more important ally.
    2. Putin probably wants to know what Trump will offer in other areas, probably Syria, in exchange for backing the resolution
    3. The Russians are still furious with what Obama did after the 2011 UN resolution about Libya; they think that, after the resolution passed, the US and NATO went beyond their promises on military action; hence, they don’t want to give the US an open door now

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, July 6

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

     Poland gives Trump enthusiastic greeting. Why? 

    Radio Poland gives part of the answer: He says US stands firmly behind “mutual defense” commitment

    Comment: The main answer is that they perceive him as tough and ready to deter Russia, which the Poles (understandably) see as militarily aggressive and expansionist. 

     Rep. Steve Scalise, who survived assassination attempt, back in intensive care for infection  (CNN)

    He barely survived the initial injuries, was recovering well until this setback, which puts him in “serious” condition in the ICU

     Anarchists, left-wing radicals plan massive demonstrations in Hamburg, site of G20 meetings  (Washington Post)

    Up to 100,000 protesters [plan to] turn the old merchant city into a site of a global contest over capitalism, the environment and ethnic nationalism. . . .

    Warning of violence, security officials say the demonstration could draw as many as 8,000 members of the militant left, from Germany and beyond. Among its participants will be  “black bloc” demonstrators with anarchist sympathies who wear dark clothes and cover their faces. Authorities said their concerns mounted following the discovery of materials used to prepare molotov cocktails, along with knives, slingshots and baseball bats. –Washington Post

    Comment: Peaceful protests are fine, of course, but not violent one. Those should be contained, with arrests leading to stiff sentences. People who organized the violence should be dealt with harshly by the courts.

     Japan and Europe agree on broad outlines of huge trade deal  (Washington Post)

    will cover nearly 30 percent of the global economy, 10 percent of the world’s population and 40 percent of global trade. –Washington Post

    Comment: The Post says it is aimed at Trump. Partly true. But it is also aimed at Brexit. But its main aim is simpler than these strategic ploys: it is aimed at increasing income in Europe and Japan.

     Air pollution reduces solar power output  (KUOW)

    The story began with a Duke scientist noticing the Taj Mahal had to be cleaned every few years because of pollution deposits.

    Bottom line: cleaning the solar panels regularly helps.

    Comment: It seems to obvious; I was struck that scientists seem not to have noticed it earlier. 

     Green-tech auto company promised a lot of jobs, got a lot of state money, but didn’t deliver. Now Mississippi wants $$ back. (AP)

    Clinton friend and now Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe was CEO of this company when this doozy was pulled off.

    Comment: The problem with targeted subsidies is that they always favor insiders. That’s true even when the projects succeed.

     “Israel’s high-tech industry is brimming with products that have made the jump from military application to civilian markets,” beginning with Iron Dome air-defense technology (CNBC)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, July 5

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

     US confirms North Korean missile was ICBM, showing progress toward launchers that can hit continental US  (New York Times)

    The administration followed up that warning on Wednesday morning with a joint military exercise in which United States and South Korean forces fired ballistic missiles in the waters along the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.

    But North Korea reaffirmed Wednesday that it would never deviate from its determination to bolster its nuclear and missile abilities as long as the United States’ “hostile policy” and “nuclear threat” persisted. –New York Times

     US vows it will ‘never accept a nuclear North Korea’ after new missile test  (Fox News)

     These Pyongyang tests leave US with few options, NYT says

    A North Korean ability to reach the United States, as former Defense Secretary William J. Perry noted recently, “changes every calculus.” The fear is not that Mr. Kim would launch a pre-emptive attack on the West Coast; that would be suicidal, and if the North’s 33-year-old leader has demonstrated anything in his five years in office, he is all about survival. But if Mr. Kim has the potential ability to strike back, it will shape every decision Mr. Trump and his successors make about defending America’s allies in the region.

    So, the options (according to the David Sanger article in the NYT) are

    • Containment
    • Stronger Sanctions
    • Threaten Preemptive Strikes
    • Negotiations

    None work very well, Sanger says, and the tougher ones carry high risks.

    Comment: My hunch is that the US will try the first three and not show any interest in negotiations unless Kim really begs for it.

     Putin and Trump will meet at upcoming G20 summit. But the Russian controversy in the US limit Trump’s ability to maneuver (Washington Post)

    If Trump attempts to loosen sanctions against Russia for its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine or its interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Congress could defy him by pursuing even stronger penalties. And if he offers platitudes for Putin without addressing Russia’s election meddling, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the findings of his own intelligence officials that Russia intended to disrupt the democratic process on his behalf.

    “The president is boxed in,” said Nicholas Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. “Why would you give Putin any kind of concession at the first meeting? What has he done to deserve that?” –Washington Post

     US Manufacturing picks up, signals positive future for US economy (Bloomberg) 2.9%  monthly gain.

    American factories powered up in June at the fastest pace in nearly three years, with robust advances in production, orders and employment that indicate a firming in the economy, data from the Institute for Supply Management showed Monday. –Bloomberg

     Tesla, introducing its first mass-market car this week, plans to introduce an all-electric, long-haul truck in September (Seeking Alpha)

    Trucking is a highly competitive industry, driven almost entirely by cost, cost, and cost. . . .  If Tesla can build a world-beating semi-truck that also delivers lower overall per mile cost, it might disrupt another industry. –Seeking Alpha

    The common wisdom in the trucking industry is that “electric trucks” aren’t possible.

     We need a “Netflix of Knowledge,” says TechCrunch

    They highlight four elements that are needed:

    1. Aggregation, so content is in one place
    2. Curation, so relevant content is available to you
    3. Personalization
    4. Creation, especially the unlocking of tacit knowledge

    With as much as half of all current jobs going away in the next 10-12 years, let’s adopt the following mission: making learning accessible and feasible for every single employee. –TechCrunch

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • In Trump’s America, who are the inmates and who’s running the asylum?

    0 No tags Permalink 0

     The inmates have taken over the lunatic asylum. That’s how it seems these days

    The inmates: President Trump, the Congressional Democrats, and the media with its unrelenting anti-Trump drumbeat.

    The asylum is America.

    President Trump’s persona has invited attacks, directed more at his person than at his policies (though they have taken a lot of incoming fire, too). The only US president who suffered more public vitriol was Abraham Lincoln. Not that I’m comparing them . . .

    Amid the controversy, it’s worth remembering that President Trump has made important, substantive initiatives such as replacing Obamacare, tax reform, budget constraints, and infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately, his many blunders have obscured achievements and stymied his initiatives.

    The Presidency Really Matters for a Healthy American Democracy

    The presidency, its attributes and code of conduct, is the foundation for a continuing healthy democracy. The criteria are a modicum of dignity, exercise of sound judgment, and personal stability.

    A bit of eccentricity is acceptable, but not bizarre tweeting, paranoia, and a pattern of verbal inconsistency. Those unforced errors invite legitimate criticism that morphs into vitriol. Is America having a nervous breakdown?

    Trump’s recent trip to the Mideast, the NATO and G7 summits, and papal meetings were successful—some more than others, of course. But they provide evidence that his presidency can survive and succeed.

    But will it? Running the country is not a one-person project. The Trump inner-circle is composed of competent patriots-masochists who seek to serve a bizarre boss.

    Good Donald, Bad Donald

    We are in the fifth month of a 48-month term of office. There is a good president Donald and a bad, juvenile Donald. The underlying distraction is the bad Donald. That’s the president’s persona, not matters of state.

    What are the sources of curative leverage? What can restrain the bad Donald and coax out the effective leader?

    The Republican members of Congress have the political muscle to confront the president. So do the president’s immediate family counselors. In another time, with another president, the media might help. Today, that’s a long-shot, at best. First, they would have to return to their primary professional responsibilities: objective reporting and fact-based commentary.

    Another untapped resource for US domestic and global stability and achievement is Democrat and Republican “switch-hitters” who could create an over-arching strategy for the president and Congress.

     Donald Trump has developed his unique persona for the past seventy years. It is highly unlikely he will change. At the very least, he needs a massive ego massage, perhaps one administered with that Big Stick Teddy Roosevelt talked about.

    Or maybe we could ask him, “Mr. President, why not think of America and your responsibilities as President as another potentially successful Trump Tower project?”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

     

     

  • NATO Summit Underscores Durable Alliance. The US Should Do Nothing to Undermine It

    Guest Author: Arthur Cyr

    Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of After the Cold War.” (Palgrave Macmillan and NYU Press).

    [Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. Readers are invited to respond, both here and on social media. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.]

     The NATO summit in Brussels on May 25 has received relatively little attention, thanks to the crowded schedule of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East and Europe.

     The diplomatic whirlwind commenced with the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. Leaders from 55 nations addressed the threat of terrorism. The NATO summit is followed immediately by a meeting of the G7, comprised of the world’s principal industrial nations, in Taormina Italy. Since World War II, economic collaboration has been consciously employed as a counter to militarism.

     The brief Brussels meeting contained heavy symbolism. Remnants of the Berlin Wall, and World Trade Center destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, were dedicated. Traditional United States complaints that European allies should spend more on defense are rightly overshadowed by the momentous events these symbols represent. European military aircraft under NATO were patrolling the skies over North American quickly after 9/11.

     The terrorist attack in Manchester in the United Kingdom underscores the continued importance of military cooperation, and doubtless muted the sorts of disagreements which can become public when allied nations gather.

     Indirectly, the attacks draw attention to Britain’s important historic and current roles in transatlantic alliance. Winston Churchill’s World War II government worked assiduously to court American public and leadership opinion.

    Britain steadily fostered cross-Atlantic military cooperation as the Cold War developed. Britain’s Foreign Secretary after World War II, Ernest Bevin, kept the far left of his Labour Party at bay. He was effective in dealing with European leaders in forging the European Coal and Steel Community and forming NATO, key building blocs of modern Europe and the trans-Atlantic relationship with America.

    ◆ In a time of uncertainty, NATO continues to provide promising transatlantic cooperation. The U.S. should do nothing to undermine this.

    The opinions in this post are those of the guest author, Arthur I. Cyr . He and ZipDialog welcome your response here or on social media. Prof. Cyr can also be reached at [email protected]

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, May 5

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

    No punning pictures of mayo in kitchen sinks for the “Cinco de Mayo.”

    Yesterday, no comments on “May the Fourth be with you”

    You’re welcome.

     A Comment on Health Care: Repeal and Replace, Relief and Regrets 

    ZipDialog will feature specific elements of the Repeal-and-Replace bill over the next weeks. For now, though, I want to comment on the overall concept.

    • Obama’s achievement. It is easy to see the mammoth problems with the Affordable Care Act. The ACA did not meet the basic promises Obama made to pass it (you can keep your doctor and your existing insurance), is financially unsustainable, and is now melting down. But that wreck should not obscure what Pres. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid achieved. After the ACA passed, most Americans came to believe that they have a right to healthcare and to the insurance policies needed to pay for it.  That right extends to the poor and to people with costly pre-conditions. It is politically perilous to remove that very costly new right/entitlement. Except for the Freedom Caucus, even fiscally-conservative Republicans are unwilling to risk it. That’s what the fight among conservatives is about.
    • Democrats are perfectly happy with the mess created by Obamacare and would be even if Clinton were president. (Well, I should say the ones who remain in office. Many were defeated because they voted for it.) If Hillary was president, the current mess would probably lead to single-payer. The D’s would certainly press for it. With Trump, it leads to a bipartisan lock-in for a vast new entitlement, which will be there forever, in some form or other. Since the hybrid public/private arrangement the Republicans are trying to fashion may not work, the Dems could end up with single payer anyway. If it new bill does not pass, they will certainly pin the failure on the Republicans, and so will many voters. If the bill passes and some people have to pay more or get less coverage, the D’s will blame the R’s, and so will some voters. In a country as angry and divided as America today, it is much easier to be the party out-of-power, as R’s are learning.
    • False comparisons. The Democrats and mainstream media will favor comparisons between any new Republican bill and the current ACA promises. The problem is that these are comparisons between a hypothetical Republican plan and an nonexistent Obamacare future. The current ACA is simply not sustainable. To say that “2 million people will lose benefit X or Y” is to assume that they would retain it under Obamacare. But that plan is falling of its own weight, so those people would lose the benefit anyway.
    • The falseness of the comparisons probably does not matter to most voters. If they were promised their preexisting conditions were covered, then they will hold Trump and the Republicans accountable for covering them–and paying for it.

    ◆ This political no-win situation is why the NYT headline reads: G.O.P. Cheers a Big Victory. But Has It Stirred a ‘Hornet’s Nest’? 

    Comment: Yes, but failing to act would have stirred it, too. The big questions now are

    • Whether the R’s can pass anything that gets signed into law?
    • Whether too many people are disappointed? and
    • Whether the program is financially sustainable?

     North Korea accuses US and South Korea of plotting to kill Kim Jong Un  (New York Times)

    Says it was a vast, $20,000 plot. That’s right, $20k.

     Trump to make first foreign trip: Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Vatican before visiting NATO headquarters and G7 meeting  (CBS)

    Comment: In Saudi Arabia, he will try to erase the region’s fears over their abandonment by Obama and his tilt toward Iran. That’s crucial. The NATO meeting will presumably mix his reaffirmation of the alliance with his complaints about free-riding.

    We don’t know what he plans for Israel and how much it will involve Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The broader goal, as Trump said on Friday, is to build a “coalition of friends.” That coalition will be directed against Iran and Islamic terrorism. (It should be noted that Trump still uses the term “Islamic terrorism” but far less often.)

     Trump fires the White House “chief usher,” hired under Obama but usually considered non-political. The job involves supervising all White House “personal” staff

    The Washington Post says she was the first woman and features her picture, showing she is African-American. They have a historian quoted saying how unusual the firing is.

    Comment: It is only speculation, but here’s my guess about the motivation: the Trump people are concerned that Obama hirelings are leaking. They already know insider leaks are a problem, so they are putting in somebody they want to do the hiring and firing.

    UPDATE: The person let know, we find out, was a Hillary loyalist. Trump wants a loyalist of his own. That’s what the Daily Mail reports.

     George Will writes a very strong column, basically saying Trump is a no-nothing idiot  (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

    It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about Donald Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. –George Will

    Comment: Whatever you think of Will’s judgment here, it is important to note that his opinion represents an important view among traditional conservatives–and not just Democrats. Part of it, I think, is about Trump’s anti-intellectual, populist style. Part of it is because Trump has never been a part of the conservative movement, a movement with deep intellectual traditions that George Will knows well and respects immensely. Part of it is because of traditionalists’ never-ending revulsion at the nouveau riche and their gold-plated faucets. They wish the arrivistes would depart, and quickly.  Note that these objections are different from those of centrists and progressives.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Thanks to Philip Hummer for the George Will column