• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 8

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

     What to expect when you’re expecting Comey: A brief comment 

    Comment: It will be extremely difficult for Comey to drop a bombshell that is not a suicide bomb.

    He was legally obligated to report obstruction and would likely have resigned. He mentioned some concerns to colleagues, but nothing approaching obstruction.

    His prepared remarks do not allege obstruction, either. They simply say Trump demanded “loyalty.”

    That could be interpreted as pressure, or not, but it’s not obstruction. And the intel agency chiefs testified Wednesday they had not been interfered with for political or personal reasons.

    Second, it is hard to question witnesses seriously in the rotating format of public committees. If you really wanted information, you would turn it over to a skilled lawyer for each side, who would question and follow up.

    Third, the two parties are now painted into corners on this. The Republicans, though cautious about Trump, will defend him against Comey unless the evidence is overwhelming. It isn’t. The Democrats are now all obstruction, all the time, and their base loves it.

    Neither side is searching for evidence. They are searching for talking points.

    They will treat the testimony like a Rorschach test, seeing in it whatever preconceived mental images they have.

    Comey is out for revenge, and he’ll do his best to bloody-up Trump (while trying to appear calm, restrained and judicial). He may do some damage, but only Maxine Waters and her ilk will think its enough.

    The biggest damage to Trump always comes from the guy in the mirror.

     Speaking of the FBI: Trump will nominate Christopher Wray as the Bureau’s next Director  (Washington Post)

    He comes with plenty of experience. Currently in private practice, the graduate of Yale and Yale Law headed the DOJ’s Criminal Division during the George W. Bush administration.

    A retired FBI agent, with 28 years service in the Bureau, emailed me to endorse the appointment:

    Although I’ve favored the selection of someone from inside the FBI as a succeeding Director in the past, that was not an option in the current selection process.

    I’ve never been sold on that idea and preferred to open the appointment process to the best man . . . for the job, and in the cases of Judge William Webster and Robert Mueller I think they served the FBI very effectively, respectfully and professionally as “outsiders” during their tenures as Director of the FBI. Both stayed out of the limelight, projected a positive image and never embarrassed the FBI.

    [Turning to the selection of Christopher Wray, who I do not know] I think he will be an excellent fit for the FBI. He appears to be a Director who will be committed to focusing on the primary mission of the FBI and avoiding the kind of issues and faulty judgment that resulted in James Comey’s shortened tenure. –Jack Keller, retired FBI special agent

    Comment: I am grateful to Mr. Keller for his comments and his service.

     Britain votes today. Polls are notoriously bad there, but, as the locals say, “the punters favour Theresa May”

    All 650 Members of Parliament are up for election as well. So, the question is not only whether May wins, but whether she retains a majority big enough to govern.

    Her final appeal was to “patriotic Labour” voters. (Guardian)

    Comment: Here’s hoping. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is everything execrable about the Europe left, cozying up to terrorists, proposing ever-larger governments, and, in Corbyn’s case, even talking about renationalizing some industries. If the Brits vote for him, they will be mostly voting against the status quo. Bad as things are, they could always get worse. And with Corbyn, they would.

     North Korea keeps launching missiles; even the new leftist government of South Korea complains (ABC)

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who has expressed a desire to reach out to Pyongyang, said during a National Security Council meeting he “won’t back off even a single step and make any compromise” on the issue of national security. He warned that North Korea could only face further international isolation and more economic difficulties.

    The North’s missile tests present a difficult challenge to Moon.North Korea, which could have a working nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile in the next several years, may also be the most urgent foreign policy concern for the Trump administration. –ABC

    Comment: South Korea’s Moon has said that the US cannot install new anti-missile systems there (a concession to China), but can keep the ones already there.

     In more amusing news, North Korea has criticized Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris Climate deal  (Huffington Post)

    Instead of ridiculing the gall of Pyongyang’s statement, the HuffPo headlines it positively, sayings “Even North Korea Thinks Donald Trump’s Decision to Quit Paris Deal ‘Short-Sighted'”

    Comment: Whether Trump’s decision is short-sighted or not, the HuffPo should never dignify any statement by North Korea’s murderous regime with such a headline.

     Amazon offers a discounted version of Prime to attract low-income shoppers  It will be half-price for people with government benefit cards. (Business Insider)

    Amazon doesn’t necessarily need a huge swell of lower-income shoppers to join Prime for the effort to pay off. Even if Amazon were to get a tiny fraction of them hooked on Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on millions of items, it could pay off in the long run because Prime customers are highly loyal. –Business Insider




  • Ranking the World’s Best Universities: My latest column at the Huffington Post

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    From my latest at the Huffington Post.

    To me, the detailed rankings (who’s number 5? who’s number 12?) are less important than the pattern.

    What to notice in new rankings of world’s top universities: 

    ♦ All of the top twenty universities are American and English.

    ♦ No university in the European Union ranks in the top 30. Switzerland and Canada have more top-tier university than the entire European Union.

    ♦ No public university in the US ranks in the top 20.

    At the top of the list among America’s public universities, the Guardian ranks Michigan #23, Cal-Berkeley #28, and UCLA #31.

    Charles Lipson
    Ranking the World’s Best Universities:
    What does the competition tell us?

    The rank-list emphasizes leadership in scientific fields.1-10-list-200px-w-margin2

    The pattern, as I see it, shows the overwhelming dominance of Anglo-American private universities.

    Also striking: the absence of any top-50 universities in the Sun Belt, outside California.

    The Guardian’s list is available here.

  • TPP: The Trans-Pacific Partnership on the Campaign Trail: My latest at the Huffington Post

    Pres. Obama defends the Trans-Pacific Partnership for trade and investment as Clinton and Trump oppose (link here)

    One of the most striking features of the current presidential campaign is that both parties are campaigning against free trade. That hasn’t happened for a century, and it marks a major change in American politics. It is likely to remain a feature of the Democratic party’s public stance since it is fundamental to both labor unions and the social-democratic left, two key constituencies for any Democratic candidate. It is more contested within the Republican party since traditional conservatives and big-business, the party’s major constituencies, support free trade and globalization. It is not surprising, then, that traditional, free-market conservatives like Paul Ryan have broken publicly with GOP-nominee Donald Trump on trade issues. . . .

    Although Hillary Clinton, who helped negotiate the treaty as Sec. of State, has now expressed her opposition to TPP, Pres. Barack Obama is eager to move forward with it before he leaves office. Despite his strong ties to left-leaning Democrats, he considers the treaty an important legacy item and would like to remove a thorny item from Hillary’s agenda if she is elected. Nothing will happen before the election, of course, but Obama is using his time at the Asian summit to reiterate his support for TPP and explain its rationale.


    TPP Map 450px