• 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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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 29

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

     Sex charges against top Vatican official (Fox)

    Cardinal George Pell, head of Vatican finances and the most senior Catholic in Australia, has been charged with sex offenses. He will return to Australia’s state of Victoria and vows to fight the charges. He calls them “relentless character assassination.”

    Comment: This is grim, sad stuff, if the charges can be proven.

     Closing in on the leakers who are giving highly-classified materials to the media to sink the Trump administration and prove the Obama administration was effective in dealing with Russia, Iran, and other problems

    In a very important story, Adam Kredo says the latest wave of leaks is very serious

    A new wave of leaks targeting the Trump administration has actively endangered ongoing intelligence and military operations being conducted by the United States and its allies, sparking anger and concern inside and outside the White House. –Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon

    So, who was it?

    The leaks have been traced to a number of former Obama administration officials, including Ben Rhodes—the former National Security Council official responsible for creating an in-house ‘echo chamber’ meant to mislead reporters and the public about the landmark nuclear deal with Iran—and Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

    Another source, this one a senior administration official who is also intimately familiar with the situation, confirmed the assessment to the Washington Free Beacon. –Kredo in Washington Free Beacon

    Comment: Kredo has done superb reporting on this story for months. The nation’s most prominent papers have done no investigating because, of course, they are the recipients of these leaks.

    I had always suspected Rhodes was one of the culprits. After all, it was Rhodes who bragged about his ability to manipulate the media, creating “an echo chamber” among journalists who didn’t really know anything about Iran or the nuclear deal.

    Now, the goals are different: undermine Trump and defend the great achievements of the Obama Administration.

    The FBI should be investigating this. Whoever did it should be fitted for prison garb. There are echo chambers there, too: concrete walls.

     Georgetown’s new dean of their Doha campus has written openly of his support for Hezbollah

    The former head of Islamic studies on Georgetown’s Washington campus, Ahmad Dallal

    signed a 2006 petition declaring his “conscious support for the Lebanese national resistance [Hezbollah] as it wages a war” against Israel, adding

     that it is “a war to safeguard the dignity of the Lebanese and Arab people.” The statement declared Hezbollah’s murderous campaign a “heroic operation.”

    In his previous position as provost of American University of Beirut, Dallal slammed one of his colleagues for collaborating with Israeli scholars, declaring that the school would boycott the Jewish state. –Conservative Review, link here

    Comment: His graduate education came at ground zero for the decline and fall of Middle East Studies: Edward Said’s Columbia. Dallal has carried that torch forward and now reaches a very prominent position.

    There is a Yiddish word for what Georgetown has done: Shonda. It means shameful.

    I can only hope Prof. Dallal will pardon me for using such a word. 

     Venezuela is mired in conflict, suffering food shortages, and may be sliding into civil war (Washington Post)

    If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat,” Maduro said to a crowd of supporters, referring to the socialist, populist platform that transformed Venezuela under his charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chávez. “We would never give up, and what couldn’t be done with votes, we would do with weapons. We would liberate the fatherland with weapons.” –Washington Post

    Comment: There was a saying about East Germany: it takes a really, really bad political structure to get the Germans to build a bad car. But East Germany was up to the task. 

    That applies to Venezuela, which has the world’s largest supply of oil underground, but cannot afford bread.

     Chair of EPA’s outside Board of Scientific Counselors says she was pressed by a Trump EPA official to change her Congressional testimony. The pressure came from the EPA’s chief of staff.

    Swackhamer said she “felt intimidated” but refused to change her testimony.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Dan Pipes and Gregg Roman
     for the Georgetown-Doha story
    ◆ Cheryl Brownstein for the EPA story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for June 1

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

     Oddly, no new scandal today.

    No terrible new allegations or fierce rebuttals.

    No new leaks from the intelligence agencies.

    Makes me wonder if the internet is down in Washington.

     House Intel Committee Issues Subpoenas to Unmask Obama’s Unmaskers (Real Clear Politics)

    Some familiar names, but one new and important one: Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador who previously served on the National Security Council.  No one had mentioned her before, though Trey Gowdy may have hinted at her in a cryptic question last week.

    House investigators told [James Rosen at] Fox News they are now devoting more scrutiny to Power, and they have come to see her role in the unmasking as ‘larger than previously known.’ Allegedly eclipsing the others named. –Real Clear Politics

    Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was also named in the subpoenas.

     Comey will testify in public next week.

    The Democrats think of him as a White Knight, riding to the rescue.

    Republicans think of him as the Knight Who Says Ni. 

    Comment: Comey thinks of himself a

    • a white knight
    • who has done absolutely everything right and nothing wrong in his public life, and
    • is now in the fight to redeem his reputation, which, he thinks,
    • will require him to destroy Trump
    • without saying that he, Comey, failed to report obstruction of justice, as he was required to do.

    This is going to be nasty, very nasty.

     Paris Climate Discord: Trump could pull US out of it this week, as he promised during the campaign.

    The New York Times has a primer on the accord itself.

    The opposition is well framed in the op-ed in the WaPo: If Trump quits the Paris climate accord, he will lead the U.S. into the wilderness

    If the United States withdraws from the accord, it would find itself in farcically lonely company. The pact was signed by 195 countries, with only Nicaragua and Syria bowing out. . . . Some climate experts actually suggest that, given Trump’s steady dismantling of environmental protections, it’s better for the United States to leave the pact altogether than to undermine it from within.

    The other effect of a withdrawal: the disappearance of U.S. leadership on a fundamental issue affecting the future of the planet. –Washington Post op-ed

    A pro-Trump take, from the Washington Examiner: “Trump could rally GOP, reward voters with Paris Agreement exit”

    Comment: There has been a ferocious fight among Trump’s White House advisers, but it looks like the “pull out” side won.

     China sees an opening in relations with Germany after Merkel’s spat with Trump  (New York Times)

    India is also visiting Berlin.

    Comment: Germany is playing a larger global role these days. But that role will be limited unless it can round up support from other Europeans for a collective effort.

    Robert Lieber has just published a brief post on ZipDialog voicing skepticism that the Europeans really can come together. (Lieber post here.

     Solar Energy Storage systems are getting smaller, cheaper, better, allowing some solar homes to begin disconnecting from the grid (Deutsche Welle)

    Comment: Batteries and storage have been the bottleneck for a long time, and a major focus of research. Progress has been steady, but still far short of consumer needs.

     Lebanon bans new Wonder Woman movie because the lead is an Israeli actress (BBC)

    Lots of Lebanese viewers want to see it but, as one upset potential customer puts it, “a vocal minority” was against.

    Comment: Yep. The kind of vocal minority whose movie critic blows up the theater.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 23

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

     Health Care Bill in the Intensive Care Unit.

    Doubts Ryan and Trump have the votes to pass the bill in the House, but the arm twisting continues to move Freedom Caucus members to the “yes” side.

    If the vote is postponed, you will know Ryan did not convince enough members on the party’s right.

    The New York Times has the most accurate headline: Leaders Struggle to Unite House Republicans Behind Health Bill. The words in the article are “uncertain fate.”

     Islamist attack near Big Ben and Parliament kills 5, including a police officer, and injures dozens

    The extent of the terrorist’s support network and connections are being investigated urgently by British police and intelligence units.

    Prime Minister Theresa May was resolute in response, saying Parliament would not postpone its Thursday session.

    Comment: Before becoming PM, May was in charge of Britain’s homeland security and was highly regarded in the position. She’s the ideal politician to lead her country through this difficult time.

     “House Intelligence chair says Trump campaign officials were ensnared in surveillance operations” (Washington Post)

    The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday accused U.S. spy agencies of abusing their surveillance powers by gathering and sharing information about President Trump and his transition team, an unproven charge that was quickly embraced by the White House but threatened to derail the committee’s investigation of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, said he was alarmed after seeing intelligence reports disseminated after the Nov. 8 election that made references to U.S. citizens affiliated with Trump, and possibly the president-elect himself. –Washington Post

    His Democratic counterpart on the committee, Adam Schiff, immediately blasted Nunes for revealing this to Trump and to the public before disclosing it privately to fellow committee members.

    Comment: I watched CNN’s take on this. It skimmed over the issue headlined in the Washington Post and, instead, emphasized Adam Schiff’s position that Nunes had destroyed the investigation and that an independent commission was now needed. The cable channel virtually ignored the substance of Nunes’ comments, which implied that some intelligence agencies did collect information on Trump campaign officials and might have shared it within the Obama White House, a serious charge.

    CNN panelists kept emphasizing the Russia investigation and suggesting that Trump’s impeachment was a real possibility if collusion was found. The CNN story is here.

     “Iran Charges Russia with Selling Out its Air Defense Secrets to Israel” (Popular Mechanics)

    An engineer with Tehran’s Ministry of Defense alleged that codes forcing anti-aircraft missiles to treat hostile Israeli fighters as friendly were sold to Tel Aviv, effectively neutralizing Syria and Iran’s S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.

    An Iranian official, described by the Jerusalem Post as a senior member of Iran’s Defense Ministry, told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida that Russia had sold “codes” to Israel that identified Israeli aircraft as friendly. The codes were used by Israel to prevent its aircraft from being targeted. Israel has flown dozens of air raids over Syria, and despite advanced air defenses, only the latest raid, flown last Friday, involved an actual missile launch. –Popular Mechanics

    Comment: Well, those allies in the Syrian fight seem to have some differences.

    Hard to know if the Iranian charges are true, but it is known that the Israelis generally have good relations with Russia and have worked assiduously to make sure Israeli planes do not create problems for Moscow when they fly over Syria to interdict Tehran’s shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah is a client Iran supplies with lethal tools to threaten Israel. Israel, in turn, tries to prevent those ships as they transit Syria, and it wants to do so without creating conflicts with Moscow.

     “New research identifies a ‘sea of despair’ among white, working-class Americans”  (Washington Post)

    Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies, according to a study published Thursday by two prominent economists [Anne Case and Nobel-prize-winner Angus Deaton] –Washington Post

    Comment: This confirms what Charles Murray wrote in his pathbreaking book, Coming Apart. Murray, you will recall, is the scholar whose presence at Middlebury College set off left-wing students, who rioted, prevented him from speaking, and injured Prof. Allison Stanger, who was escorting him.

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, January 14

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

     The House embarks on the politically-fraught task of repealing and replacing Obamacare  The vote was almost entirely along party lines. The New York Times story is here.

    While their party is far from a consensus on how to replace the health care law — under which more than 20 million Americans have gained health insurance — they will need votes from Democrats in the Senate to enact a robust replacement plan.

    Republicans have argued that Americans have been crushed by soaring premiums and other unintended effects of the law, which was adopted without any Republican votes. –New York Times

     CNN gets half the story  The cable channel goes with the headline, “Donald Trump’s top team don’t all agree with him on Russia” They highlight the testimony of James Mattis (for Defense) and Mike Pompeo (for CIA), both of whom spoke in hard edges about Russia’s geopolitical ambitions and said they had no doubts that the Kremlin was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and others.

    Comment: When CNN’s report is accurate and important, but it misses something else important. Trump has signaled how he intends to manage. CNN includes the Tweet, but doesn’t appreciate its meaning. Trump is saying he intends to give his key people considerable authority, and he wants to hear their genuine views. If he follows his approach at the Trump Organization, he will reconcile conflicts among them and hold them responsible for their decisions, firing them for falling short. (A deficiency in the George W. Bush presidency, where loyalty to subordinates kept them in office, failing.). 

    We do not know if Trump will actually stick to this approach, but that is what he is signaling.

     Protests shut down invited speakers at University of California-Davis The story is here (NBC)

    Comment: I did not name the two speakers because their names and views should not matter.

    They were invited by a campus organization; they posed no imminent danger to anyone; that should be the end of the story.

    If you don’t like them, then march around and protest, if you wish. Hold a counter-meeting.

    But you should not prevent these people from speaking and, if you do, you should face serious consequences.

    As it happens, I consider both speakers deeply unpleasant, or worse, and would never invite them to speak. But that’s not the issue. Someone else did invite them, and no one should have a heckler’s veto.

     VERY positive review of Google’s new phone, the Pixel XL  It “is as good as the iPhone 7 Plus and makes jumping to Android painless,” says FoxNews Tech. It costs a little over $750.

     Syria Says Israel Attacked Military Airport, Warns Of ‘Repercussions’  Israel’s goal was to stop Iran’s supply of heavy weapons to Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon (on Israel’s northern border). The Iranian weapons are temporarily stored in Syria en route. Their destruction caused huge explosions at the Damascus Airport, controlled by Iranian military and Assad’s regime. Israel declined comment, its standard practice in these matters. (The story is here, at NPR.)

    Comment: Lost in the daily cesspool of Iranian actions is the failure of Pres. Obama’s grand strategy, designed to bring Iran back into the international system as a more moderate, benign actor. He and John Kerry touted that as one goal of their dealings with the Mullahs. The counter-argument at the time was that they would simply use the monetary windfall to fund aggressive actions throughout the region. The counter-argument proved correct. 

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, Dec. 4

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

    ◆ Can Trump simply cancel Obama’s Executive Actions? It’s harder and slower than it sounds, says Andrew Rudalevige in the Washington Post.

    The items in [President-elect Trump’s] list range from things clearly within the president’s unilateral authority to those that will require a fair bit of cooperation from others.

    For instance, rolling back federal regulations may be slow going because of legal requirements.regulations-labeled-200px-no-margins

    Repealing an existing regulation requires a rulemaking process of its own, subject to the Administrative Procedure Act — this can take months or years. The Supreme Court has held that a rule can’t be rescinded simply to reduce regulation; there has to be “a reasoned basis for the agency’s action.” . . .

    More important, the issuance of regulations is often required by law — and the power to write those regulations is normally vested in a given department or agency, not in the White House. Presidents cannot unilaterally veto a regulation that an agency is determined to issue, or repeal one an agency is determined to keep. –Andrew Rudalevige in the Washington Post

    ◆ Jonah Goldberg on what Trump’s intervention at Carrier portends (National Review Online) Goldberg reiterates his previous stance that Trump’s populism is not traditional conservative.trump-carrier-200px

    The more traction Trump got, the weaker the grip traditional conservative ideology had on quite a few famous ideologues. [Goldberg is not apologizing.] It would be weird for me to apologize for telling the truth as I see it about Trump — and then continuing to do it.

    But this Carrier decision shows that the damage will not be nearly so surgical. The rot is already setting in. … the White House is going to pick winners and losers, that it can be rolled, that industrial policy is back, that Trump cares more about seeming like a savior than sticking to clear and universal rules, and that there is now no major political party in America that rejects crony capitalism as a matter of principle. –Jonah Goldberg at NRO

    Actual CNN op-ed: “Why sex is about to get a lot less fun” under Donald Trump.

    Comment: The double-entendre is just too rich.

    ◆ Striking economic comparison:
    California [Russia + Saudi + Iran + South Africa].

    California’s economy is $2.5 trillion (International Spectator)

    ◆ Tweets of Note

    tweets-of-note-for-12-4-16

     

    ◆ Apple gives a strong hint it is working on a self-driving car (The Verge)

    ◆ Yet another troubling dimension of the Syrian tragedy: Russian soldiers pal around with Hezbollah (Liveuamap)

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
     for story about sex being “less fun” under Trump
    ◆ Blake Fleisher for the Hezbollah-Russian story

     

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    ◆ Send interesting stories to
    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com