• 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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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, September 19

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

    ◆ Trump’s campaign manager wiretapped. That’s a big deal.

    The story was broken by CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman, starting in 2014 and continuing, off an on, until this year. The tap, authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), would include periods when he was known to speak with Donald Trump. (Manafort also owned an apartment in Trump Tower; that might be relevant because Trump spoke of wiretaps in Trump Tower.)

    There is increasingly strong public speculation that Manafort will be indicted by Robert Mueller’s office.

    At this point, we do not know who the FISA warrant(s) targeted.

    Comment: At this point, we simply don’t know enough about this surveillance. (In fact, the information released to CNN was almost certainly a felony violation of secret proceedings.)

    • Anti-Trump people think the fact that a federal judge would authorize surveillance on such a senior figure in the Trump campaign suggests something very bad was afoot and that collaboration with the Russians may have been Manafort’s aim (if not necessarily that of others in the campaign).
    • Pro-Trump people think this information vindicates his repeated claims that he was wiretapped.
    • And, of course, a lot of people, myself included, want to know more before they reach a conclusion.

    I think a lot of people will agree with Dan Drezner (a centrist and no friend of Trump’s):

    Trump at the UN: Very tough talk. Threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea, calls Kim “rocket man,” and labels Iran a “rogue nation” (New York Times)

    He included terms he had seldom used recently: “radical Islamic terrorism.”

    The full speech is available here on YouTube.

    Comment: Trump’s speech was an unusually blunt, full-throated defense of America’s interests, as opposed to globalism, and included particularly sharp and detailed attacks on Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

    Critical responses to the speech line up as expected.

    More censorship calls on campus, this time because a professor wrote a scholarly article called “The Case for Colonialism” 

    The article, by Prof. Bruce Gilley of Portland State, was published in a peer-reviewed journal that is very anti-colonial, which presumably thought the piece was serious, well-researched, and would spark scholarly debate. The basic argument does not deny the evils of colonialism but says they must be balanced against the benefits and that anti-colonialism has itself carried high costs.

    Recently, Gilley publicly resigned from the American Political Science Association for its ideological bias.

    Here’s the report at Legal Insurrection.

    Comment: Given the political climate on today’s campuses, especially those on the coasts, what Gilley’s article sparked was not discussion but calls for him to be fired, censured, and tarred-and-feathered.

    Will the End of Syria’s civil war spell disaster in Europe as battle-hardened terrorist fighters return? (BESA Center)

    Mordechai Kedar says “yes” and adds that Iran has now effectively taken over Syria, strengthened Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and given a free hand to Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

    Comment: Iran’s expansion across the region was facilitated by the Obama administration and will cause death and destruction for years to come.

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  • Not this year: The Clintons cancel their annual gala for world leaders

     For more than a decade, Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative—his annual meeting/gala/fundraiser–has been staged to coincide with the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

    Not this year.

    CGI has other events listed on its website, but not the main event that attracted the biggest names in the world–prime ministers, presidents, secretaries of state, CEOs movie stars, etc.

    That was the genius of staging CGI during the UN meeting. People of huge international stature were gathered in New York. The top contributors were, by custom, summoned to the stage for a hug from Bill. Hillary was almost always there, and, of course, Chelsea.

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    Quietly Ditched, at least for 2017

    It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I haven’t heard any of the usual promotion and media buzz about CGI 2017. It might have been scrapped on purpose because of the sense of certainty in the Clinton camp, in the media, and almost everywhere else, that Hillary would win.

    If she were POTUS and Bill were First Gentleman, then it would, by any standard, seem inappropriate. We should probably expect that it’ll reappear during the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2018.

    Here’s the CGI meetings link for 2016 which suddenly feels so out of date (link here)

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    Will the CGI Gala Resume in 2018?

     I, for one, hope it does, because, as usual with the Clintons, the suspicions and allegations of impropriety overtake the fact that CGI does much good work.

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    Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. She has written extensively about CGI in her book on Bill: Clinton in Exile: a President Out of the White House

    Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

    • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
    • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
    • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and

    She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

    She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

  • 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: 

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  • 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)

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  • 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)

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  • 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

     

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