• ZipDialog Roundup: What to Know about Barcelona and the Jihadist Attack; Friday, August 18

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

    ◆ Barcelona: What to Know about the Terror on Las Ramblas

    Explanation: Barcelona is one of the great cities of Europe, with a very mixed population. It has fabulous architecture and is a particularly good city for walking, strolling, having a cup of coffee outdoors. Americans think of it as “Spanish,” but it is also the capital of the Catalan region, which has its own language and which has voted to become independent. (Madrid has resisted and, unlike the Basque separatists, those in Catalan have not be violent.)

    One of Barcelona’s main spots for strolling is a pedestrian street, Las Ramblas, which runs a couple of miles from the port to a major plaza. It is next to a medieval quarter, which is also great for strolling or sitting at a cafe.

    The only vehicles permitted are those delivering merchandise to the store, and those are rare (most deliveries are at night or by small carts).

    A picture will help you understand the ambiance. 

    A Jihadist attack there was bound to kill many tourists, strike terror into the whole city, damage its vital tourist industry, and perhaps reiterate the Islamist claim that the Iberian peninsula should revert to Muslim control because, long ago, it was conquered by Islam.

    Of particular concern: The fact that the attack was so well-organized and seems to be linked to a strong support network (how else could the driver have been hidden after escape? how else would a bomb factory be found in another town?)

    Yes, there will be a lot of attention to the missed signals from the US to Spanish and Catalan authorities, as there should be.

    There will be a lot of attention to the huge, illegal migration from North Africa to Spain, a short boat ride away from Morocco.

    And there will rightly be a lot of concern about

    • The sophistication of this Islamist plot
    • The morphing of Islamist tactics as they lose their “caliphate” and send battle-hardened veterans back to Europe and North America to control local terror ops
    • The ease of killing people on sidewalks all over the world
      • If you harden one such targets, there are thousands more
      • These attacks are not limited to one city or one country; they are spread across the civilized world
    • The unregulated flow of North Africans and Middle Easterners into Europe
      • Still supported by clueless politicians, led by Germany’s Angela Merkel
    • The support network of local extremists, some of whom have lived in Europe for 2-3 generations without becoming European and accepting basic values of tolerance, peaceful contestation of grievances, and acceptance of social and religious differences
      • Note that the idea of a caliphate deeply contradicts western Europe’s hard-won achievement of separating political authority from religious authority; our leaders are not our chief priests and political dissent is not apostacy, as they are in an Islamic caliphate

    There should be deep concern about all of these issues.

    There should be much more attention to the spread of pernicious Islamist ideologies and their support from state sponsors, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and, of course, Iran.

    There should be deep concern about how to suppress the threats and how to do so without crushing the very liberties we seek to protect.

    ◆◆◆◆◆◆

  • US-Russian Relations: What matters but isn’t covered in all the tabloid news

    Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 election matters. So do any possible connections to the Trump campaign

    But the media’s obsession with those issues is missing other major developments in US-Russian relations

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The news about US-Russian-European relations goes far beyond the 2016 election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign.

    On the international stage, Vladimir Putin has skilfully played a very weak hand, while the US misplayed its own for 8 years. Putin has taken an economy the size of Italy’s and returned it to status as an international power.

    It is Iran’s major outside supporter and a major player in Syria, where, in return for supporting the Assad regime, it has acquired major bases.

    It has used Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas for political leverage.

    And it has effectively offered to step in and assist North Korea if they want assistance beyond China’s.

    But he can only stay in power by running a corrupt kleptocracy, in close alignment with the oligarchs, with everything stage-managed from Moscow.

    That’s a good way for him to stay in power, but it is a terrible way to grow a diverse, modern economy. Over the long run, the Russian economy will continue to sputter as the US grows.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    What has the Trump Administration done to cope with Putin internationally?

    The media focus has been entirely on US weakness, especially Trump’s mixed statements about NATO and his inexplicable reluctance to recognize the threat from Russia in clear, unambiguous language. There has been some focus on the recent cease-fire in Syria, too.

    But there is much more to the story. And all these other developments put pressure on a Kremlin ill-equipped to handle it.

    NATO

    On NATO, as I have noted, Trump is now a firm supporter but he still wants two major changes: a focus on terrorism and fair-share payments from European partners, as they promised. One reasonable interpretation of his threats to back away from NATO is that they are meant to get Europe to pay up.

    Poland

    In Poland, Trump did more than make a speech (a very good one in my opinion, a very bad one in the opinion of Democrats). He also agreed to an important arms sale the Obama Administration had refused.

    In a move set to counter Russia’s reinforcement on NATO’s borders, Poland and the U.S. have agreed that Warsaw will purchase the American-made Patriot air defense missile, the Polish government announced Thursday.

    Although Poland is a long-term advocate for more U.S. military presence in Europe, Russia’s decision to deploy Iskander missile systems on its borders in November made the demand for assistance more urgent. The S-400 surface-to-air missiles and nuclear-capable Iskander systems are set to be delivered in Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave bordering Poland. –Newsweek, story here

    Ukraine

    Totally missing from news coverage is the startling news that Ukraine is now openly seeking NATO membership–understandable, given the Russian threat, but an open insult to the Kremlin, which refused even to let Ukraine strike a trade deal with the EU.

    The Reuters story is headlines: “Pledging Reforms by 2020, Ukraine Seeks Route into NATO

    [Ukraine’s] President Petro Poroshenko, whose country is fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, revived the prospect of NATO membership during a visit by NATO Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg who himself used the occasion to call on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

    “Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and its future in the sphere of security,” Poroshenko speaking to reporters alongside Stoltenberg.

    “Today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.”

    Russia, deeply opposed to enlargement of NATO toward its borders, weighed in quickly, saying the prospect of NATO membership for Ukraine would not promote stability and security in Europe. –Reuters

    It’s unclear how NATO will approach this or what the Trump Administration will say (or even if it will speak with one voice).

    But the very fact that Ukraine has raised the NATO issue is sure to be a major irritant in US-Russian relations.

    Energy

    The Russian economy depends on oil revenues, and so does the Kremlin to retain support from oligarchs.

    The problem is that energy prices are under permanent, long-term pressure from the US, where shale technology is getting more and more efficient. The US is now a major (and growing) energy exporter, and Trump is doing everything he can to ramp up production and ramp down prices.

    The impact on Russia is not his primary concern here. He’s more concerned with the positive impact of lower prices on the US economy. But the impact on Russia is real, nonetheless, and Trump means to exploit it.

    On his recently completed trip, the president said:

    Let me be clear about one crucial point. The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations, and we cannot allow others to do so,” Trump said at a press conference flanked by European leaders. “You don’t want to have a monopoly or a monopolistic situation. –CNBC story here

    Trump did not name Russia, but everyone understood his message. After all, Russia had cut gas supplies to Europe in 2008 over a Ukraine dispute. Trump was saying, in effect, that we intend to stop that blackmail by giving you an alternative supplier.

    Bottom Line

    The possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign are worth a thorough investigation, as Mueller is doing.

    But don’t be mislead by Democrats’ talking tough: they did little to buttress Central European defenses during the Obama years. Pres. Obama had no intention of increasing US hydrocarbon production, if he could prevent it. (He couldn’t, thanks to new technology.) Lower energy prices it contradicted his broader concerns about fossil fuels and global warming. Fracking technology beat his regulatory onslaught, just as it beat the Saudis’ attempt to drive them out of business with low energy prices.

    For all Trump’s inexplicably warm language about Putin, his actions tell a different story. He’s selling arms to Poland, pressuring Europeans to pay up for NATO, unlocking American oil reserves to lower prices over the long-term, and working to ween Europe from Russian natural.

    Taken together, these actions put enormous pressure on a Kremlin underperforming economically, highly dependent on oil prices, and overstretched by its foreign commitment.

     

     

     

  • Extraordinary Blinders: The WaPo looks back on the Orlando Massacre a year later. . . and omits the source of terror, calling it only “a madman with a gun”

    Here is the Washington Post headline:

    “A year ago, 49 people died at Pulse nightclub. Today, Orlando remembers”

    Perfectly appropriate headline for a sad, human-interest story.

    Their emphasis on remembering and mourning is good. That’s important for all of us.

    What’s not good is the Post’s deliberately omitting the source of terror.

    When they finally mention that a killer came to the Pulse nightclub, they intentionally mislabel as a “madman with a gun.”

    That’s political spin–and it tarnishes serious reporting.

    Here is the Post’s mischaracterization:

    For 12 years, the club grew into an integral space for the gay community, one shattered within a matter of minutes by a madman with a gun–Washington Post

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment: I understand the focus of the article is on “remembering,” not analysis.

    But they do mention the attack–and, when they do, they deliberately mischaracterize it.

    It was not a “madman.” He had a purpose–a political/religious one.

    He came to kill infidels in the name of Islam, as his terrorist movement interpretted it.

    We need to speak clearly about that.

    At the same time, we must not tar Muslims (or members of any religion) who go about their lives peacefully and honorably.

    I write about these issues at Real Clear Politics: An Islamic Terrorist by Any Other Name (link here)

     

     

  • The Language Police Troll Me After the London Attacks. Here is My Response

    After my plain-langue posts on the London attacks, the language police tried to collar me with a Citizens Arrest.

    Here’s the comment, in its full glory.

    Stop saying “Islamist”. It’s a made-up, racist term only used for hate. Usually by hateful, right-wing “Christist” bigots, but sometimes by “Judeists”, too.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Why did I refuse to approve this comment?

    • I like dialog. I put it in the blog name for a reason.
    • I like intelligent, reasoned views, whether I agree with them or not.
    • I loathe ad hominem attacks.
    • I loathe moral poseurs, virtue signaling and trying to shut down arguments simply by saying “you are wrong,” “you are hateful,” etc.

    This comment fell firmly into the “I loathe” category.

    I wouldn’t stop them from broadcasting their views.

    But I won’t publish them as a “comment,” either. Set up their own “language police” page, if they wish.

    They don’t add to the discussion on ZipDialog. They attempt to shut it down

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    .

  • 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]

  • A Brief Guide to Trump’s upcoming NATO Summit

    What Can NATO Do in Today’s Threatening World?

    May 25, the NATO heads of state will meet in Brussels. It’s an important meeting for the world’s most important alliance, the cornerstone of America’s military and diplomatic partnerships.

    If NATO is important to the US, the US is critical to NATO. It is the organization’s de facto leader because it has the diplomatic and military muscle and because it contributes 70 percent of NATO’s $890 million budget.

    What issues are on the table when Trump arrives in Brussels? The same ones that have plagued the organization since the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
    1. Is NATO obsolete?
    2. If not, what is its mission?
    3. Is NATO a paper tiger? If it is, how can it become more relevant?

    A Little Background

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in the late 1940s to contain the Soviet Union and safeguard the security of its original fourteen state members. It expanded occasionally during the Cold War, adding Greece and Turkey in the early 1950s, for instance, to contain Soviet probes to gain influence (and a warm-water port) in the Mediterranean.

    After the Cold War, NATO took in many of Eastern Europe’s new democracies, former Soviet satellites eager to form close connections with the West. In the process, the original 14 members doubled to twenty-eight, with Montenegro scheduled to become the twenty-ninth.

    NATO is both political and military

    Although the sub-text of NATO’s mission is to prevent conflict, in reality its reason for being is not peace.

    Today, NATO’s primary purpose is to constrain a belligerent and expansionist Russia.

    That is both a political and military task, and NATO has both dimensions. Or, rather, it has them in principle but not always in practice.

    NATO did not respond to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea or its bombing of the Syrian military and civilian opposition. Russia also guaranteed that Syria’s chemical weapon inventory would be totally liquidated. Not so. Last month the Syrian government committed a chemical attack resulting in the deaths of scores of opposition fighters and civilians. Again, NATO did not respond, although the US did with a barrage of cruise missiles.

    How should the US approach NATO now?

    The contemporary threat array facing the US and NATO is
    • Russian expansionism,
    • A hostile ISIS-Islamic Caliphate, and
    • Acts of domestic terrorism, which struck the West again this week.

    What should NATO’s role be in tackling these threats? My assessment is that NATO is still germane to constraining Russia, but it is not capable of countering ISIS or domestic terrorism.

    The US can regain its global leadership responsibility by using and supporting NATO, provided the NATO member states recognize, define, and implement their limited role as diplomats who are dressed in military uniforms. This is an expensive charade.

    The NATO member state budget commitment is two percent of their GDP. Compare the US 3.6 percent contribution and the 2 percent commitment made by Estonia, Greece, Poland, and UK, with the other 23 states that do not meet their commitments.

    NATO should stay in its lane.

    America’s focus–our national interest–lies in protecting the Baltic states from Russian military aggression, providing military weapons to the Ukraine (a non-NATO member), and re-integrate Turkey into NATO.

    The US can regain its global leadership position and responsibility by leading, using, and supporting NATO.

    Bottom Line: Keep NATO, but consider reducing its budget by 50 percent to allay US critics who seek to terminate the alliance because it is not cost-effective.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, May 21

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

     My quick take on Trump’s Trip:

    There are two key elements to Trump’s trip, in my opinion.

    The first is to reorient US policy in the Middle East after what most of the region considers the disastrous Obama years.

    Pres. Trump is saying “we are back and we oppose Iran.”

    In return, Trump wants (and expects) local partners to start cutting off terror funding from their locals and participate in the larger battles against Iran and terrorism.

    This stage of the trip, now completed, went very well and included a full-throated speech by Trump that touched the right issues without stepping on toes. It ended, significantly, with “God Bless America,” a phrase seldom uttered in the Land of the Two Holy Places.

    The speech was far-better received than Obama’s famous speech in Cairo, which was a prolonged apology for American policy and included ample references to the Koran. Those were overshadowed by his weak stance toward friends, even weaker stance toward enemies, and refusal to give the speech unless the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood could sit among the dignitaries–another of his disastrous miscalculations, as the region quickly came to see it.

    Trump’s second goal is to reestablish strong ties with NATO, while still pressing the Europeans for more payments.

    His visit to Israel does not have such clear objectives; we’ll know more soon.

    The Vatican trip is simply for show.

    ◆ Further comments: Dan Pipes calls the Saudi speech “pretty good”.

    Pipes is not an easy grader, so that’s a high mark. His praise is related to Trump’s reorientation of US policy toward Iran and Islam more generally.

    But he has some withering criticisms, too, calling the speech “incoherent” and “neither eloquent nor insightful.”

    It’s farcical to announce the opening in Riyadh, the headquarters of Wahhabism, of a “Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.” –Daniel Pipes

    As always, he is well worth reading.

     Conservative media owner Sinclair is buying the Tribune’s broadcast TV stations. The MSM does not like it.

    The NYTimes has already opposed it, vigorously. Now the Washington Post does, too.

    Here’s the WaPo headline: Sinclair’s TV deal would be good for Trump. And his new FCC is clearing the way.

    When French voters resoundingly elected a centrist president rather than a right-leaning antiglobalist this month, one reason may have been the nation’s news media.

    As a French newspaper editor commented: “We don’t have a Fox News in France.”

    The United States certainly does have one. Pretty soon, it may have the equivalent of two.

    Sinclair Broadcast Group has struck a deal with Tribune Media to buy dozens of local TV stations.

    And what Fox News is for cable, Sinclair could become for broadcast: programming with a soupcon — or more — of conservative spin.

    Already, Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. If the $3.9 billion deal gets regulatory approval, Sinclair would have 7 of every 10 Americans in its potential audience.

    That’s too much power to repose in one entity,” Michael Copps, who served on the FCC from 2001 to 2012, told me. –Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post media columnist

    Comment: There is a real possibility Sinclair will form a national, conservative network to rival Fox, which has struggled recently.

    You would expect Fox to be grumpy. Nobody likes competition.

    But opposition by the Washington Post and New York Times is different. They don’t oppose Sinclair because it will compete with them for revenue. Their opposition is ideological.They oppose Sinclair because it will compete with them for hearts and minds. 

    Still, you have to be amused when the paper owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos trots out anti-trust reasons.

     World Health Organization moves around in style, spending more on travel and upscale hotels than on fighting AIDS  (NY Post)

    The UN health agency blows around $200 million a year on travel costs so its honchos can fly business class and stay in five-star hotels — more than what it reserves for battling some of the world’s biggest health crisis, the AP reports. –NY Post

    The travel budget was also larger than the amount they spent fighting malaria or TB. They did spend more fighting polio.

    Comment: The WHO seems to have adopted Marie Antoinette’s motto. They should remember: it did not work out well for her.

     NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio honors a Marxist-Leninist, Puerto Rican terrorist  (PJ Media)

    Ron Radosh lacerates Pres. Obama for releasing the miscreant, de Blasio for honoring him, and the NY Times for papering over the evil:

    A few days ago, a New York Times headline informed readers that the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade held in New York City  would honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, a person they described as a “long-jailed militant” and a “nationalist” — certainly  a misleading description of the self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist and terrorist.

    If you’re wondering how this could have happened, you should thank President Barack Obama, who paid off any debts he had to the far left by granting Lopez Rivera clemency in the last few days of his administration. –Ron Radosh at PJ Media

     The real story is much hotter than the AP headline: “California Democrats take aim at Trump, GOP Congress  Well, d’uh.

    Here’s the real, crude, and disgusting story:

    In a sign of the vigor of the party’s distaste for the president, outgoing party Chair John Burton, a longtime Democratic lawmaker and powerbroker known for his blunt and profane manner, extended two middle fingers in the air as the crowd cheered and joined him.

    “F— Donald Trump,” he said. –AP

    Comment: Read that again to see what bias looks like. This crude, foul treatment of a democratically-elected leader is called “a sign of vigor.”

    Ask yourself this, if the Republican convention in Texas or Minnesota had chanted “F**k Obama” and held up middle fingers, do you think the Associated Press would have called it “a sign of vigor”? Not a chance. They would have blasted it with their biggest cannon.

    If you treat the same event differently, depending on whose ox is gored, then your reporting is biased.

    That’s one reason Trump’s backers are incensed that the MSM, which was somnolent during so many scandals in recent years, has come out of hibernation now that they have found a President they can hate.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
    for the California Democrats story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 18

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

    It’s wonderful to see a growing community of readers here at ZipDialog. Thanks for visiting and for sharing it with friends.

    I hope it really does build a dialog of diverse viewpoints on public issues.

     What does the Mueller appointment mean?

    Here’s my take:

    • The appointment was widely applauded. Everybody said that, if anyone had to do the job, Mueller was the best choice. He is
      • A straight-shooter, not a partisan
      • A work horse, not a show horse
      • An experienced hand at the FBI, which he directed. That means he can get up-to-speed quickly and choose a staff quickly.
      • An experienced prosecutor, who will know what to pursue and what to leave aside.
      • A focused investigator, who is unlikely to go off on tangents, as previous special prosecutors have
    • The appointment decision was made by Rod Rosenstein, the second-in-command at DOJ and, in this case, acting Attorney General because Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
      • Rosenstein continues to acquit himself well. He made the decision himself and simply gave the White House a heads-up shortly before the public announcement.
    • Some strong Trump supporters think a special counsel was not needed and is a victory for the Democrats. They are mistaken, IMO.
      • It is a victory for the Democrats in the sense that they, and not the Republicans, have been seeking such an appointment.
      • But it was essential to restore public trust after the Comey firing and conflicting stories about what caused it, following by Comey’s leaked memo.
      • The reason why the appointment was essential is that only a trusted, non-partisan, and highly-competent investigator, such as Mueller, can clear Trump of the serious allegations against him and his team, namely that they collaborated with the Russians and that Trump tried to kill the investigation in a private conversation with Comey.
        • If the prosecutor or special counsel were tainted, the findings would be, too.
        • If Trump wants to reboot his Presidency and move beyond the Democrats’ unsubstantiated charge that he stole the election and committed a high crime to cover it up, then he needs Mueller and not some toady to say so.
    • The big question about the scope of the investigation is how much it will delve into Russia’s overall involvement in the 2106 election.

    I will stay on top of this issue and, in later posts, will take up other aspects.

    Meanwhile, we need an equally thorough investigation by the intel agencies themselves into who is leaking their crown jewels to hackers and highly-classified material to the Washington Post and New York Times.

     How bad is Turkey’s sinking Islamic autocracy? Erodogan’s thugs beat up protesters in Washington, DC, outside the Turkish Embassy (Washington Post)

    D.C. police arrested two men, one from Virginia and one from New York, and said they are pursuing charges against additional suspects since the melee outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle. Eleven people were injured, among them a police officer. Some were kicked and stomped, their heads bloodied.

    Included in the police search are members of Erdogan’s armed protective detail, according to two people with direct knowledge of the case. –Washington Post

    Comment: This is really nasty and some of the thugs will escape justice because of diplomatic immunity.

     Twenty-one members of the violent MS-13 Gang arrested in LA raid (Los Angeles Times)

    Twenty-one people accused of being part of the notoriously violent MS-13 gang were arrested Wednesday as federal and local investigators forced their way into homes and businesses across Los Angeles County in a pre-dawn sweep that came as a result of a more than two-year racketeering investigation. . . .

    MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, preys on immigrants without legal status.

    “They extort them. They rob them. They rape them. They murder them. Without their cooperation as witnesses, none of this would be possible,” [LA Police Chief Charlie] Beck said, noting that LAPD officers do not check immigration statuses before talking to witnesses. –LA Times

    Comment: This needs to keep going, month after month.

    ◆$ The tech sector is leaving the rest of the US economy in its dust: Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft  (The Verge) Their dominance in the stock market rally is clear-cut.

    It took Amazon 15 years to match the market capitalization of Walmart. Two years later, it is worth more than double its biggest rival. –The Verge

    ◆$ Ben Bernanke says America’s economy is now nearing capacity  (Financial Review, Australia)

    “We’ve got basically a 2 per cent economy here and that means it doesn’t take that much to knock you off track,” Bernanke told attendees at the SkyBridge Alternatives Conference in Las Vegas. “We have already approached the limits of our capacity and unemployment is pretty much about as low as it can go, so we don’t have that extra capacity to create growth.” –Financial Review

     Here’s what free speech means: Univ. of Chicago students get to hear a talk by the head of Homeland Security and actually engage with a key policymaker on crucial issues  (WLS, ABC7 Chicago)

    Comment: At many universities, the head of DHS, retired general John Kelly, would be shouted down because he is the front line of Trump’s immigration policy and anti-terrorism efforts. Because he was not shouted down, our students got to hear him, ask tough questions, and make their own decisions, without intimidation.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 9

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

     Obama reenters the fray, urging Democrats to stop Trump and the Republicans from repealing-and-replacing Obamacare (NPR) He did not use Trump’s name, but his message about the ACA was unmistakable.

    Comment: This is an unprecedented step for an ex-president, reentering contentious partisan politics so soon after leaving office. Still, it is his signature achievement, and he wants to protect it legally, even as it disintegrates financially.

     FBI paid $900K to break into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone  (Engadget) The company itself famously refused to assist the government.

    Comment:  Apple’s decision was controversial, of course, since this was a high-profile terrorism case  The company wanted to keep its customers’ confidence, obviously, but I think they were also worried that dictatorships like the Peoples Republic of China could demand the same thing from them. If word of that kind of cooperation spread, it would be very damaging, indeed.

    Beyond these calculations, one tech expert told me, was another calculation. Apple feared “they’d be responsible for building a tool to break security for their millions of customers,” with unknown ramifications legally and commercially.

     Russian spying and Michael Flynn discussed in public testimony by senior Obama officials, James Clapper and Sally Yates  The NYT has a brief synopsis with “six takeaways” 

    Comment: To me, the biggest takeaway is that nothing much was revealed. The bigger issues are still lurking, and either could be huge.

    1. Was there any high-level collaboration between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin?
    2. Was the Obama administration actually spying on political opponents by “reverse targeting”? 

     South Korea heads to the polls today to pick a new leader, likely one who wants much closer relations with the North and less cooperation with the US  (CNN). More on this after the results are in.

    Comment: W One reason the US rushed the THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea recently was to have it in place before the election. It’s more difficult politically to tell the US to remove it than it would be to say, “No, you cannot bring it in here.”

     The Trump Travel Ban was heard by the entire Federal appeals court in Richmond.

    At issue: is this a security decision within the President’s purview or do his statements about threats from the Muslim world make it a “religious test.”

    Here’s the Washington Post report.

    Comment: The same issues are being heard in California. This will surely head to the Supreme Court, and quickly.

     Goldman Sachs thinks the current economic expansion could become the longest one on record (CNBC)

    The expansion has already lasted 95 months, making it the third longest expansion since records began in 1854.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 30

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

     State Department official arrested; accused of economic spying for China  (Los Angeles Times)

    A longtime State Department employee [Candace Claiborne] was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence. –Los Angeles Times

     FBI director Comey wanted to publicly expose Russian spying before the election; Obama White House blocked him  (Newsweek)

    Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. . . .

    [The op-ed] would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.–Newsweek

     Federal Reserve says the US economy is finally back to normal  (CNN Money). Unemployment is officially under 5% and adding 200k jobs monthly, which the Fed considers full employment for its purposes. This data is why the Fed is gradually raising interest rates, hoping to keep the economy from overheating.

     Attorney General for Mexican state of Nayarit arrested in San Diego on drug trafficking charges  (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Comment: You hate to see their courts and law enforcement system besmirched.

     Dead: The misanthrope who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in the late 1960s. It featured recipes for bombs, gun silencers, and all sorts of weapons. It sold over 2 million copies and 

    is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. –New York Times

    Comment: Oddly, given his contributions to this world, he died of natural causes.  I have deliberately omitted his name.

     Headline: “This Chicago man saved $1 million by the time he was 30. Here’s how he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

    Let me explain how he did it:

    1. He made pretty good money, though not fantastic amounts
    2. He didn’t spend very much.

    Honestly, that’s what the article says. And, frankly, it is good advice if you want to accumulate resources and can restrain your consumption.

    Try to make good money and don’t splurge. If your investments get good returns, that helps, too.

    Comment: Works every time.

    But I would add: as you accumulate, give some to worthy charities. Others less fortunate need your help.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦