• How the NSA Found Out the Russians had Hacked It

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

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

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

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

  • New York Times Art Critic Attacks Israel-Sponsored Exhibit on Eichmann Trial

    The problems: apparently it is just too clear morally, too focused on Eichmann’s capture

    Such obvious failings. It’s hard to believe the Israelis missed these subtle points.

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    Ira Stoll, writing for Algemeiner, excoriates the moral vacuousness of the New York Times (link here to Stoll article);

    Just when you may have thought that the New York Times couldn’t possibly sink any lower when it comes to Israel or Jewish issues, along comes one Jason Farago, an art critic for the newspaper, who manages to review an exhibit about the murderous Nazi Adolf Eichmann and fault it for being, of all things, insufficiently sympathetic to Eichmann.

    Farago complains: “The trial was transformative, but whether it was entirely just is not a question raised by this exhibition, which prefers the relics of James Bond-like spycraft to moral and legal dilemmas.”

    Perhaps the reason the exhibit doesn’t dwell on these so-called “moral and legal dilemmas” is because they weren’t truly dilemmas at all. –Ira Stoll, in Algemeiner

    The Times article is here. The key quote:

    The show goes longer on spy thrills than on moral and legal perplexities, though that may have been inevitable given its co-organizer: none other than the Mossad, the intelligence service that is Israel’s equivalent of the C.I.A. –Jason Farago, in the New York Times

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    Robert Lieber comments on “the NYT’s intellectual bankruptcy”:

    The Holocaust and the deliberate, ruthlessly organized and meticulous extermination of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II constitutes a uniquely appalling crime in the history of the modern world.

    One of its foremost architects, Adolph Eichmann was captured, tried and executed by Israel in an event that held the attention of the world.

    Now, more than a half-century later, the New York Times, ever ready to break new frontiers in its moral transgressiveness reviews an Israeli-government-sponsored exhibit in New York that documents the case.

    Leave it to the NYT to focus not on the unique evil, the indifference, fecklessness or complicity of so much of the world while the helpless Jews of Europe were being oppressed and slaughtered, but instead on the alleged absence of moral ambiguity in the exhibition.

    The NYT was once a great newspaper and the journal of record. This has long-since ceased to be the case in a newspaper where the editorializing begins on the front page.

    This current story is but the latest illustration of the New York Times‘ intellectual bankruptcy.

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    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, August 4

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

    ◆ EXCELLENT ECONOMIC NEWS: Surging jobs in July means that the US has now regained all the jobs lost in the recession. Wages rose 2.5% last year. Unemployment remains 4.3% Dow-Jones above 22k for the first time ever (Washington Post)

    Comment: Now, to get more healthy people back into the labor force.

     

     ◆ After latest leaks of private Presidential phone calls to foreign leaders, AG Jeff Sessions announces more measure to find and punish the perps (Fox News)

    Based on the leaked documents, The Washington Post reported new details Thursday about Trump’s tense phone calls in late January with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In the former, Trump reportedly told the Mexican leader to stop publicly saying his government would not pay for a border wall.

    The newspaper said the transcripts had notes indicating they had been classified by the chief of staff on the National Security Council. The Post said it obtained full transcripts, which were “produced by White House staff” and based on records kept by White House note-takers. –Fox News

    Comment: My guess: holdover staff from the last administration or people who have just been fired.

    Special Counsel Mueller empanels Grand Jury in Washington (The Hill)

    They already had one in Virginia, so this is really not new, just a more convenient location for Mueller’s office, which now has 16 full-time prosecutors.

    Comment: It means the investigation is

    • Clearly a criminal one, not limited to counter-intelligence
    • Not limited to Mike Flynn, who was the subject of the Virginia panel
    • Likely to last many more months

    Who should be worried? Anybody in Trump’s circle who has extensive business dealings with Russia or Russian-sponsored entities and, of course, anybody who lies to Federal agents. Lying to the media is not a crime, but a pattern of lying could indicate intent to cover up and prompt further inquiry.

    West Virginia’s Democratic Governor announces switch to GOP at Trump rally (Charleston WVa Gazette-Mail)

    West Virginia, once reliably Democratic, has voted for Republicans in each presidential race since 2000, and dramatically last year. Four of the state’s five Congressional seats have flipped to Republican.

    The most important elected Democrat in the state is now centrist Joe Manchin, who said he will remain a Democrat.

    Comment: Democrats now control only 15 governorships and the fewest state legislatures in the party’s history.

    Sticking with Bernie and Nancy is not going to help, but the ineptitude of the current Congress will.

    Israel: PM Netanyahu’s top aide agrees to testify against him in a bribery, fraud investigation (Bloomberg)

    Comment: Likely outcome: Netanyahu indicted.

    It’s grim when top officials are suspected of corruption, but it is good news when an independent judiciary can investigate them, as they do in constitutional democracies . . . and nowhere else.

    Chief of Staff John Kelly emerges as key supporter of National Security Council Adviser McMaster in White House in-fighting (Politico)

    Comment: Yes, it helps that they are both former generals. But the main point is that they are both experienced at high-level Washington bureaucratic politics.

    McMaster has been cleaning house in his operation, putting his own people in place.

    The problems: McMaster has a violent temper, often on display in staff meetings, and is frequently pitted against Steve Bannon, who is an important link to Pres. Trump’s populist constituency–and who would be harder on the Trump Administration outside the tent than inside.

    Fragile economy limits Putin (Reuters)

    And US sanctions weak him further.

    Comment: ZipDialog has made this point repeatedly. Most news commentary has overlooked it.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Michael Lipson for the Grand Jury story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 2

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

    US investigating China’s unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property (New York Times)

    This is a broad effort, supported by Pres. Trump and led by the office of the US Trade Representative

    Comments:

    • China does have unfair trade practices; their economy is suffused with them
    • China steals intellectual property on a massive scale–and everyone knows it
    • Trump made China’s discriminatory trade practices a central campaign issue, with a focus on the harm these practices do to US workers
    • He held off any hardline against China in the hope Xi would get tough with North Korea. He probably knew it was a long shot, but he had to try. Once it was clear Beijing would not help in a serious way on North Korea, there was no reason to withhold a reassessment of bilateral economic relations with China.

    Corporate leaders will fear a trade war, understandably. They would prefer a bad-but-stable arrangement with Beijing, providing access to the Chinese market. Trump undoubtedly thinks he can get a better deal, with a focus on US jobs, and he understands how vulnerable China is. Its entire economy is based on open access to world markets without letting those market participants have equal access to China.

    Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes now a person of interest in unmasking investigation (Circa)

    This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan have all been named in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the unmasking of Americans. A letter sent last week from Nunes to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggested that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections. –Sara Carter at Circa

    Comment: This investigation deserves a lot more media attention–and some serious investigative reporting. If the unmasking was unnecessary, that would be a problem but merely another example of power corrupting. If, however, the unmasking had partisan political aims, that would be a much more serious issue since it would be illegally transforming our foreign intelligence operations into a political instrument for one US administration to use against domestic opponents. If that is proven, it would be a fundamental blow to our constitutional governance.

     DOJ to sue universities that use affirmative action to discriminate against white applicants (New York Times)

    An internal announcement to the [DOJ’s] civil rights division seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” –New York Times

    Comment: The latest Supreme Court decision narrowly approved the continued use of race as one factor in admissions, but there are several other cases pending, so the weighting of the racial factor is still being litigated. Indeed, as the composition of the Court changes, the overall status of race-based admissions may change.

     Can this marriage be saved? Bride arrested after pulling gun from wedding dress and pointing it at the groom (New York Post)

    Comment: In a shocker, police report alcohol may have been involved.

    Today in Irony: Palestinian Authority chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who has opposed Israel at every turn, has asked to be put on Jewish State’s list for a lung transplant–and will, of course, be put on the list. (Jerusalem Post)

    Comment: Meanwhile, the PA continues to pay terrorists for killing Israelis.

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    Thanks to Clarice Feldman and Eduardo Vidal for the story on Affirmative Action

  • 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 Friday, June 30

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

     Trump’s twitter fury, aimed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe and its hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

    The Washington Post headline says, quite accurately: ” Trump and ‘Morning Joe’: How a long and ugly feud just got even uglier

    Comments: 

    1. Yes, Scarborough and Brzezinski have said outrageous, hyperbolic, defamatory things about Donald Trump
      • Many other media outlets have done the same
      • Far more show consistent partisan bias, damaging their reputations, hurting the President, and eroding trust in media
    2. No, that is absolutely no excuse for the President of the United States to respond with noxious, personal attacks
      • Trump’s response would be objectionable, but not so different from many Twitter spats, if he were merely a private citizen
      • But he is not a private citizen and should not be held to those standards. As President, he is not only a political figure, he is the head of state. One requirement of that office is to maintain dignity and decorum consistent with the office.

    Politically, this is self-inflicted damage to Trump. Few approve it except for his most avid supporters. And it takes him off-message, at a time when Americans want results on healthcare and taxes.

    But the worse damage is to our public life and discourse, which had already sunk so low, and to trust in our institutions, which are crucial to our democracy.

     Far Different from the first time: “Trump travel ban takes effect to minimal disruption (Fox News)

    The revised order, which the US Supreme Court approved in part (with some aspects reserved for future decisions), covers 6 countries and does not block foreign individuals with strong personal ties to the US.

    A scaled-down version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban took effect at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, with none of the dramatic scenes of protest and chaos that greeted the original version of Trump’s executive order five months ago.

    The Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice went ahead with the implementation after the Supreme Court partially restored the order earlier this week. –Fox News

    Comment on Media bias:

    The Fox report was straightforward. Others, not so much.

    It was almost impossible to find a news report that actually gave the news instead of an editorial. The news is that the revised ban went into effect, worked smoothly (so far), and met with only modest demonstrations at airports, far different from the bureaucratic mess and large demonstrations that surrounded the initial order.

    Kudos to the BBC for this neutral headline: “Trump travel ban comes into effect for six countries.”

    Bronx cheer for many others. CNN headline makes no mention of the smooth rollout and modest demonstrations. It does mention further court challenges, even though the main one will come in the autumn at SCOTUS. The challenges are from Democratic state AGs, such as Hawaii, and they mainly ask for clarification. A nothingburger.

    Most of the headlines looked like this. Others emphasized the demonstrations.

     

    Major legal victory: Jury decides US can seize a major Manhattan skyscraper, owned by Iran (New York Times)

    The jury . . . found that the Alavi Foundation, which owns 60 percent of the 36-floor skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue, violated United States sanctions against Iran and engaged in money laundering through its partnership with Assa Corporation, a shell company for an Iranian state-controlled bank that had owned the remaining 40 percent. . . .

    The [US] government has agreed to distribute proceeds from the building’s sale, which could bring as much as $1 billion, to the families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, including the Sept. 11 attacks. –New York Times

    Comment: The same foundation has made donations to Columbia University (link here). The stench runs deep.

    ◆  Washington football team will remain the Redskins. Native American groups and DOJ drop lawsuit after Supreme Court ruling.  (Washington Post)

     Major lawsuit again San Francisco State University over its systematic anti-Semitism, including violent suppression of Jewish speakers, shouted curses, calls for an “intifada,” etc. The suit alleges the university administration was indifferent to repeated complains and actively protected the disrupters.  (Newsweek)

    The lawsuit has been filed by a pro bono organization, the Lawfare Project. The suit

    calls SFSU “among the worst of the worst offenders and is largely recognized as being among the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country.”

    The heckling of Barkat is one of several incidents that the suit argues contributed to an atmosphere hostile to Jewish students, one that was created with the alleged complicity of the school’s administrations. –Newsweek, reporting on Lawfare Project’s suit against SFSU

    Comment: Long overdue. The SFSU administration actually blamed the Israelis for one disruption against them, saying the only reason the mayor of Jerusalem (Nir Barkat) came to speak at SFSU was that he knew the Palestinians and the leftist allies at SFSU would riot to prevent it–and that’s just what Barkat wanted.

    So, this is the logic: the mayor of a large city comes to speak at your university; your students riot and prevent him; you blame the mayor; and then, after promising citizens the rioters would be punished, you do nothing at all.

    Those administrators should be held fully and personally accountable. Their next jobs should be flipping burgers until they are replaced by robots.

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