• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 22

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

     There are four big, dangerous big international stories:

    1. Reports that China is squeezing North Korean gasoline supplies
      • If true, Beijing is sending an unmistakable signal
    2. Reports that Iran has a secret new facility to develop nuclear triggers for its future bombs
      • The report comes from a dissident group that has been accurate in the past (story here)
    3. French elections Sunday that could undermine the European integration project
      • Two of the four major candidates in Sunday’s election will go into the runoff
      • Three candidates have Russian backing
      • Two of those could undermine the European integration project and pull France out of its (partial) NATO membership
      • The implications of those withdrawals would be grave and would transform European and world politics . . . for the worse
    4. Turkey’s Erdogan using a fraudulent vote count to seize all power in his country

      • Ataturk’s project, begun a century ago, was to create a secular state
      • It never became a full democracy, but it was not a full dictatorship, either
      • Erdogan, who is fundamentally reversing Ataturk’s project, has “coup-proofed” his military, taken control of the judiciary, and a diminished role for the legislature
      • To complete this consolidation of power, he will have to repress a restive population and hold together a country on the verge of splitting apart

    These are obviously not “one-day stories,” and ZipDialog will stay with them and highlight what’s most important about them as they unfold.

     Pyongyang, North Korea: Gas stations sharply restrict purchases, suggesting China is reducing supplies  (Fox News)

    China would not confirm or deny.

    It is the main source of North Korea’s energy.

    Comment: For China, the difficult task is to get a stubborn Pyongyang to change policies without breaking the regime, which is not in China’s interest. Doing too little risks deeper American involvement, which is not in China’s interest either.

     Michigan doctor, wife arrested for (allegedly) conspiring to perform female genital mutilation  (Fox News)

    According to the criminal complaint, some of Attar’s victims, ranging from ages 6 to 8, are believed to have traveled interstate to have the procedure performed.

    Female genital mutilation is prevalent in some majority Muslim countries and is sometimes called “cleansing” by its practitioners. It involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, often performed without anesthesia. It is designed to ensure females remain virgins until marriage.

    According to a 2013 census by the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States have undergone the procedure or are at risk of the procedure–Fox News

    The Los Angeles Times reports:

    International health authorities say female genital mutilation has been performed on more than 200 million girls, primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. –LA Times

     The inside story from lawyers who brought down Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes before him  (Washington Post)

    The accuser was wavering. She wanted to go public . . . but Perquita Burgess was afraid, her attorney Lisa Bloom said.

    The attorney worked hard to convince Burgess to go public, asking her explicitly to do what Rosa Parks had done. Then, according to the WaPo

    [Bloom] also explained to her client in stark terms what she hoped to accomplish: “The mission was to bring down Bill O’Reilly.” –Washington Post

     American Airlines: Video of flight attendant who “whacks a mother with a stroller while she holds her twin babies and reduces her to tear” (Daily Mail)

    Comment: This is why market competition is so great. First, United Airlines drags a passenger off the plane. Well, in a cutthroat market, you cannot expect American Airlines to stand still. It’s great to see them step up their game and start smacking around their customers, too. They must be poaching some of the ace customer-service folks from United.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, April 18

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

     The big news continues to be tension in Korea, where Vice President Pence is visiting and told the North Koreans not to mistake the president’s resolve

    Comment: This is a crisis of choice, in a sense. Trump, like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, could have kicked it down the road. All those presidents tried and failed to resolve the issue.

    Delay is not always a bad solution, but it’s not always a good one, either. You have to figure out whether time is on your side or your adversary’s.

    The problem here is that North Korea is making steady progress on two deadly fronts, and it is no longer willing to delay them for small bribes, like those paid by previous administrations.

    North Korea is getting better at building nuclear bombs. It is trying hard to make them smaller, so they can fit on a missile, and it is trying to build a hydrogen bomb. Second, it is making steady progress building medium-range missiles and is seeking to build an ICBM. The combination of small nukes and long-range missiles would put the US within range of nuclear attack by a hyper-dangerous regime whose leader does not appear to be calm, steady, and rational.

    The US has long said a North Korean nuclear threat to the US was unacceptable. Saying it, as several presidents have, is a far cry from making it an effective policy. That is what none have been able to do, and not for lack of trying. Trump seems to be doing something. We don’t know exactly what and we don’t know how effective he and his team will be. We do know it is risky to try; the Trump team has calculated that it is far more dangerous in the long run to sit and wait.

    Over the longer horizon, then, it is Pyongyang’s policies and erratic, bellicose pronouncements that created the crisis.

    Over the short term, though, the crisis was initiated by the US.

    My interpretation: Trump, Mattis, Tillerson, and McMaster (and probably Coats and Pompeo) looked that North Korea’s military program and asked themselves a fundamental question: Is time on our side or theirs? If it is on ours, then delay. If it is on their’s, then force the issue. We can see first-hand what their strategic assessment is.

    The hard part now is to force the issue with threats and not the actual use of force, which could lead to vast casualties. 

    In using threats, Trump has a huge advantage over Obama. Trump’s threats to use force are credible. The Chinese and North Koreans–and America’s friends in the region–have to take that seriously for the first time in years.

     “Calexit” supporters drop their secession bid . . . for now (Washington Post)

    Comment: Ken Burns is particularly disappointed.  His proposed PBS series began with a letter,

    My dearest Tiffany–
    If we should lose tomorrow’s battle, if I should die far from the gnarly waves of Newport Beach, I want you to know . . . .

     New York Times runs op-ed by “a leader and parliamentarian.”  That’s what the NYT calls him–and that’s all they say.

    The paper overlooked his day job: he’s a convicted terrorist who murdered five Israelis.

    Comment: You really can’t blame the Times if a writer omits a detail from their résumé.  

    Of course, the writer is the most prominent Palestinian terrorist in jail. The NYT deliberately hid the crucial information about his murders from readers.

    To compound this nasty piece of work, the Times ran it to gin up American public support for a hunger strike by jailed Palestinians.

    The Daily Caller excoriates the paper, rightly.

    And Elliott Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations blog, rips the Times a new one. Well worth reading. His conclusion nails a crucial point: the readers deserve the information.

     Shocking News: The US economy keeps growing but electricity use is flat. That’s what Bloomberg says. Per capita, it has fallen for six straight years.

     Lawsuit of the Day:

    • Professor comes into Wal-Mart to get fishing license
    • Get license but finds his employment listed as “toilet cleaner”
    • Humorless fisherman files suit

    The AP story is here.

    Comment: According to the lawsuit, the professor feared mockery every time he yelled “I caught another big one.”

     A serious story on the sexual-harrassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly  (Washington Post)

    A key part of the story is the allegation by a Los Angeles author and radio personality, Wendy Walsh, who is not seeking money, which then led to an independent investigation by the prominent NYC law firm. It was the law firm’s negative findings on Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes that led to his departure.

    As the Washington Post puts it:

    A similar fate [to Ailes] could await O’Reilly; a negative finding by the law firm could force the hands of Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, who run Fox’s parent company.–Washington Post

     Here is tomorrow’s Washington Post opinion page. Notice a pattern?

    The list continues beyond this screenshot. It is, as the mathematicians say, “finite but large.”

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Robert Lieber and Ed Lasky
    for different reports on the New York Times‘ hiding the background of a Palestinian terrorist.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 17

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

     Turkey’s Erdogan claims he won a major national vote, giving him near-dictatorial powers. The opposition says “not so fast”  (Associated Press)

    Comment: He has been accumulating power steadily and moving the country toward Islamism, rejecting the century-old secularist tradition of the country’s modern founder, Atatürk.

     How bad is Libya? Well, there are now slave markets there, according to the United Nations  (BBC)

    Comment: Beyond the horrific human tragedy, there are other lessons for the US and Europe here. The biggest–and one we have had to learn repeatedly–is that it is far easier to knock down a regime, such as Muammar Gaddafi’s or Saddam Hussein’s, than it is to stand up a stable replacement.

     NYT calls North Korea a “Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion”

    Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the American position as Mr. Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with up to a thousand times the power than the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far. –New York Times

    Comment: The NYT headline is insightful, highlighting the dangers ZipDialog has long stressed.

    But there are two crucial differences worth pondering. First, in October 1962, the US was dealing with a rational rival. Now, we’re not sure. Second, in 1962, we dealt with Russia, which had complete control over the nuclear weapons, which were theirs, after all. Now, we are dealing with North Korea and its own arsenal. Beijing has tremendous leverage, but it ultimately has to get Pyongyang to act. Moscow didn’t have that problem with Havana.

    Related story: Vice President Pence, visiting South Korea, tells North Korea not to test US resolve. (Washington Post)

     “Against all odds,” says the WaPo, “a communist soars in French election polls”

    [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon is running as the candidate of the Unbowed France political movement, in an alliance with the French Communist Party. The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power. –Washington Post

    Comment: Who knows which two candidates will make the runoff? But the strong showing of an extreme left and an extreme right candidate are deeply disturbing. Trouble for markets, the EU, and, most of all, stable democracies in a stable Europe. Time for paintings from Weimar?

     Shameful NYT headline on a story that has NOTHING to do with Justice Neil Gorsuch:

    Why Gorsuch May Not Be So Genteel on the Bench

    The only connection between the story and Gorsuch is that he is male and conservative, and a recent study deals with conservative males on the Supreme Court before Gorsuch.

    Comment: The Times reports on a forthcoming law review article that says male SCOTUS justices interrupt more often than female justices and that conservatives interrupt more often than liberals. That may or may not interest you. For me, it ranks #1257 on my list of important public issues. Perhaps it ranks higher for you. 

    The problem here is that the academic has nothing, zero, nada, zip, bupkes to do with new Justice Neil Gorsuch. The NYT just wanted a current news hook and was delighted to smear Gorsuch in the process.

    Nice work, Times, and special kudos to the reporter, Adam Liptak, whose sleazy hook should earn him extra dinner invitations in Georgetown and the Upper West Side.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

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

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

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    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 6

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

     A word of caution on two evolving scandals: Russia-Trump and Susan Rice

    • If there is evidence of serious crimes, each of these could become truly major events.
    • But so far we have few hard facts, shrouded in extremely sharp partisan attacks, mimicked and exacerbated by the news media.

    Russia’s role in the US election:

    • The mainstream media continues to say that Russian interference in the US election (a fact) also involved direct collusion with senior Trump officials (a conjecture). So far, top intel officials not associated with Trump have said there is zero evidence of collusion.
    • There is an FBI counter-intelligence investigation of these issues. If it finds some self-dealing from Trump officials, using their positions to make money, that’s bad news for them and certainly newsworthy, but it is not a catastrophic national scandal. If if finds significant collusion between Russians and top Trump officials, that is a truly enormous crime against our democracy.

    Susan Rice:

    • We know Rice lied publicly when she told PBS two weeks ago that she knew nothing about the unmasking of names.
    • Her story has changed. Now, she simply says she did nothing improper.
    • That may be correct. It seems to be very unusual to ask for as many unmasked names as Rice requested, but she will undoubtedly say she needed to know them to understand US intelligence. Whether that is true or false will depend on the scale of her requests and especially on the type of information contained in the intercepted conversations. If they were entirely related to US national security, she’s in the clear, or at least she can plausibly argue that she had good reasons for doing what she did. If the conversations are far removed from US national security issues, she’s in trouble–and so is the country for having a National Security Adviser who used US intelligence resources for domestic political purposes.
    • At this point, we simply do not know enough to discriminate between those two interpretations, one benign and one malign.

     News you haven’t seen about Susan Rice, the Obama Administration, and spying on US Citizens: 

    Lee Smith, writing in The Tablet, says Rice “may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year” with info about Trump and associates. 

    Smith focuses on the Iranian Nuclear Deal and says the US spied extensively on Israeli officials (who opposed the deal). No problem there; that is completely within the purview of the intel agencies. Since Israeli officials worked closely with US citizens, including lawmakers, who opposed the deal, their conversations were picked up, too. The question is whether the Obama White House, in possession of this information, restricted its use to national security or went beyond that, abusing the foreign intelligence system.

    Smith reaches a devastating conclusion:

    I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

    “At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

    This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. –Lee Smith in The Tablet

     Pres. Trump harshly condemns Syria after deadly sarin gas attack, calling it “horrendous” and saying it crossed “several” red lines, deliberately invoking Obama’s language

    Comment: The shift in US policy was abrupt. Only a few days earlier the US had resigned itself to Assad’s continued rule. The change is clearly the result of the chemical attack. Pres. Trump’s language, especially his use of Obama’s term, signals some kind of military strike.

    I would be shocked if the US put troops into this no-win situation. The US can certainly damage the Assad regime from the air, but, even there, a strike runs the risk of conflict with Russia, which (along with Iran) is the main foreign support for Assad’s regime. 

    The larger strategic problem for the US is that there is no way to stand up a pro-western regime there without enormous costs and high risks.

    Two big Thursday events: Chinese leader Xi meets Trump in Florida, US Senate moves to end debate and vote on Gorsuch for Supreme Court

    Comment: More on them tomorrow when we have real news.

     McMaster asserts his control over the National Security Council

    • All news outlets are reporting Steve Bannon is out (he should never have been in);
    • What many are not noticing is that McMaster is filling out his organization with skilled professionals.

    Good report at Politico.

     

     

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 26

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

     The main news continues to be the aftermath of Republican failure to repeal-and-replace Obamacare.

    The main political questions:

    • Who wears the jacket?
    • How does it affect Trump’s legislative agenda going forward?

    The main practical question:

    • How will this affect ordinary Americans who need health insurance?

     Here’s a shocker: Russian police arrest people protesting the regime’s corruption.  (Washington Post)

    Comment: They will have a hard time buying life insurance.

     North Korean missile failure “won’t stop Kim Jong Un Trying to Strike U.S.” says NBC News.

    Analysts said it may be a mere bump in the road, and do little to dissuade North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un from his ultimate objective of building a nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

    Comment: This program poses a serious threat to the US, indeed an existential one. Several previous administrations have been unable to stop it and, so far, the Chinese (NK’s main external supporter) has been unwilling to press them.

     Today in Obvious: New York Times says “Paul Ryan Emerges from Health Care Defeat Badly Damaged”

    Comment: The Freedom Caucus doesn’t trust him, and everyone else wonders if he has the clout to get anything controversial passed.

    Since the bill didn’t make it to the Senate, Mitch McConnell remains unscathed.

     Chuck Schumer says delay vote on Gorsuch for Supreme Court because of “Russia Probe” (The Hill)

    Comment: Yeah, like that delay is going to happen. This is just sliming.

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  • Anti-Missile Tech Keeps Getting Better: Israel’s Arrow System intercepts a Syrian Missile (UPDATED)

    As more and more bad actors get intermediate- and long-range missiles, the technology to intercept them becomes more and more important.

    The technology is significantly different from that used to intercept short-range missiles, which Israel’s Iron Dome has used successfully many times, protecting civilians living near the Gaza Strip.

    Israel’s Arrow Anti-Missile System is designed for these intermediate- and long-range threats. Last Friday, it was used for the first time in combat, against a missile fired from Syria, probably a Russian SA-5 (aka S-200).

    BBC report here: “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit'”  Times of Israel report here.

    What is the Arrow Anti-Missile System?

    Here is what Defense Industry Daily says:

    The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI [Israel Aerospace Industries] to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems. . . .

    In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. –Defense Industry Daily

    Here’s a clear visual representation:

    The Arrow System and Israel’s Tough Neighborhood: Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran

    A skilled Israeli observer, Ofer Bavly, offers his concise observations on the Arrow system and its use to protect Israel against regional threats:

    On Friday night Israel for the first time launched an Arrow missile under operational circumstances. The event occurred as the Israeli Air Force was launching an attack on a convoy carrying long-range missiles and other advanced weaponry from Syria to the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon. While Israeli attacks on Hezbollah convoys are not a new phenomenon, Israel usually does not publicly admit such attacks and sometimes even denies them so as not to force the hand of Syria or Hezbollah in retaliation. This attack was different in that as the jets were making their way back into Israeli territory, Syria launched surface-to-air missiles at them. It is not common for Syria to try and shoot down Israeli jets. The Russian-made missiles that they launched, SA-5, are not modern or very efficient. As such, they did not at any time endanger the Israeli pilots. However, computer models tracking the missiles showed that they would be falling in Israeli territory, so the Air Force decided to intercept them using the Arrow missile. The interception was successful and was the first such operational interception since the Arrows came online. The system is designed to handle more modern and more efficient missiles including those that would exit the atmosphere and would be intercepted in outer space. Debris from the interception fell in two locations inside Jordan. Sounds of the explosions could be heard in Jerusalem and along the Jordan Valley.

    Although tested extensively on dummy targets in the past, this is the first time that the Arrow is used against an actual threat.

    The event is also significant for the fact that Syria tried to shoot down Israeli jets, a rare move which may signify that the Assad regime, now propped up and supported by Russia and Iran, feels emboldened enough to attack Israeli planes. This may be a step up in the level of Syrian belligerency towards Israel, which may affect future Israeli operations in the north, or it may be an isolated case. In any case, the use of SA-5 missiles which are relatively old and ineffective against modern jet fighters, may show that Syria does not have more advanced anti-aircraft missiles. So while the event revealed an important Israeli card, it also exposed the weakness of the Syrian army.

    –Ofer Bavly, private communication (published with his permission)

    Beyond the threat from Syria and Hezbollah lies a far bigger threat: Iran, which is working closely with North Korea to develop effective long-range missiles and, many fear, the miniaturized nuclear weapons to fit on them.

    UPDATE: Blake Fleisher on Missile Defense in Israel: From Reluctant Acceptance to Full Embrace

    Fleisher, a policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Washington), comments:

    Arrow was Israel’s first missile defense system and at the time the Israelis were skeptical about the project because it didn’t fit into their offensive doctrine.

    They supposedly took it on to benefit from US aid (Reagan’s SDI), but the catalyst was Saddam Hussein firing ballistic missiles in the 80s and 90s.

    Ironically, today Israel uses lots of missile defense and you can’t imagine the country without it. –Blake Fleisher, 

    For those interested in more detail, Fleisher recommends a study from the US Army War College:

    Jean-Loup Samaan, Another Brick in the Wall: The Israeli Experience in Missile Defense (PDF online here)

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    Thanks to

    • Ofer Bavly
    • Jay Tcath
    • Blake Fleisher
    • Robert Lieber

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 12

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

     Turkey’s relations with Europe continue to decline. The latest: Netherlands deny entry to Turkish foreign minister; Turkey’s leader, Erdogan calls the Dutch “Nazi remnants.” (Fox News)

    Comment: Erdogan is transforming his country, and not for the better. For years, Turkey was secular, a legacy of Ataturk’s revolution after World War I. Erdogan has turned it toward Islam, though not as strident a form as some other countries. For years, Turkey was a semi-democracy. He has increasingly assumed dictatorial powers and is in the midst of an election to reinforce those powers.

    Having failed to enter the European Union, his latest gambit was to hold up Europe for ransom to slow the flow of refugees fleeing regional wars. Now, Erdogan sounds less and less interested in that bargain.

     As North Korea’s arsenal grows, experts see heightened risk of ‘miscalculation’  (Washington Post)

    ZipDialog has frequently focused on the growing threat from this belligerent, erratic country with an unstable regime.

    Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and ­Korea experts. Pyongyang’s growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.

    The military developments are coming at a time of unusual political ferment, with a new and largely untested administration in Washington and with South Korea’s government coping with an impeachment crisis. Longtime observers say the risk of conflict is higher than it has been in years, and it is likely to rise further as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to fulfill his pledge to field long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. cities. –Washington Post

     Saturday Night Live has become an editorial page. Will viewers prefer that or comedy? 

    The New York Daily News, which shares SNL’s politics, puts it this way: “Trump-dominated SNL showdown features ‘complicit’ Ivanka Trump, ‘racist’ dog, ‘distracted’ Jeff Sessions” and called it a “mud-slinging showdown.”

     Harvard Library lists many legitimate, conservative news sites as fake. (Washington Examiner)

    Included on their “fake, false, and misleading” list are the Washington Free Beacon, the Weekly Standard, the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, and Independent Journal Review, but not Fox News. The sites listed are legitimate sites with strong conservative leanings (of different varieties). Comparable progressive sites, such as Mother Jones, are not listed.

    Comment: If this were an editorial for Slate or the New Republic, it would be par for the course. But it is not. It is presented as a seemingly-neutral, professional guide for students and scholars. In that guise, with Harvard’s official imprimatur, it is truly shameful

     Genetic testing and the workplace: major privacy issues  CNBC reports

    Workers participating in so-called workplace wellness programs reportedly could be ordered to get genetic testing — and hand over the results — by their employers or face financial penalties, if a bill being pushed by congressional Republican becomes law.

    That bill, passed by a House committee Wednesday, could end up as part of the second phase of planned Obamacare-replacement legislation, the STAT health-care news site reported Friday. –CNBC

    Comment: Expect a slew of ethical, legal, financial, and political issues to arise as medical-testing technology improves. We will have ever-increasing capabilities to link genes to future diseases and even behavior. Employers and insurers will want to know. Individuals will want privacy.

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  • North Korean missile launch: Trump Administration’s First Big Challenge

    Launch violates UN Resolutions

    North Korea’s goal: Nuclear-tipped ICBMs that can hit America

    It will probably reach that objective during Trump’s presidency, says Richard Haass, an experienced policymaker and now head of the Council on Foreign Relations in NY. (Bloomberg report here.)

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    Comment: The fact that Pyongyang launched this provocative test while Japan’s Prime Minister Abe was visiting the US is an unmistakable message of defiance.

    Its immediate effect will be to tighten US alliances with South Korea and Japan and to encourage considerably more military expenditures on their part. That, in turn, will raise concerns in China, which could try to halt North Korea but has been unwilling to do so.

    North Korea is also very closely aligned with Iran, which purchases its missile technology from Pyongyang and cooperated with them on nuclear technology.

    The US can ratchet up sanctions on North Korea, of course, but that country has so few ties to the international system that leverage is hard to achieve.

    In short, this is a very dangerous country that several US administrations have tried–and failed–to stop.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 4

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

     Congressional Black Caucus very upset at “Latino” who wants to join. 

    Actually, he is a Dominican of African descent.  (Politico)

    [Representative Adriano] Espaillat’s district, while majority Latino, has a sizable African-American population and includes Harlem, long the intellectual and cultural center for black America.

    “See that complicates matters. Even though our agendas are typically parallel, occasionally they are not. So it may be problematic if someone wants to belong to two ethnic caucuses,” said. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a former chairman of the CBC. “If he’s considered an African-American then he’s certainly welcome in the caucus. But I can’t speak for the caucus.” –Politico

    Comment: “Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we organize as identity-politics cheerleaders.” Why? Because it is unclear how to determine identity and who gets to determine it. As the CBC dispute illustrates, the left is now in the odd position of asserting that “male” and “female” are subjective, fluid categories, to be determined by each individual and accommodated by others, but that somehow “race” is not a largely-subjective category to be determined by each individual.

    As far as I’m concerned, the CBC should be able to determine their own rules for membership. But it is interesting to watch their hypocrisy in dealing with these identity issues.

    ◆ Post of the Day: “Some Typos Are Worse Than Others,” says Judge Rakoff

    Comment:  “I’m so embarrassed,” said the editor. “This went out prematurely.”

     New Defense Secretary, Mattis, faces big problems in Europe (Russia, NATO), the Middle East (Iran, ISIS, other terrorism), and Asia-Pacific (China). He goes to Asia first  CNN reports key American allies, Japan and South Korea, are reassured by the meeting but still anxious about China’s aggressive actions.

    Predictably, China pushes back (AP)

    Comment: The global problems are so vexing and manifold that the new Administration would be well advised to move very carefully in establishing priorities and clear strategies. We have limited resources. 

    Mattis did make one clear, strong statement. In a modulated tone, he said that any use of North Korean nuclear weapons would lead to an “overwhelming” US response. The US also committed itself to installing high-tech missile defense in South Korea.

     Islamist attacks the Louvre and its tourists with machete. (NYT) Good lord, why? Still grumpy over Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours?

    Updated reports from France24 are here, covering not only the Louvre attack but also French raids on Islamists in its aftermath. 

     Another Putin opponent poisoned and near death (Daily Beast)

    Comment: This thuggish regime will face increasing trouble as its economy continues to decline and its population continues to age. Yes, they are playing a weak handle well internationally, but it is hard to see how the regime gains much tangibly from its costly international engagements.

     Prominent German weekly, Der Spiegel, has cover of Pres. Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty  (Daily Mail)

    An Irish publication, The Village, features a cover with a rifle sight centered on Trump’s head.

    Comment: Seeing this cover, a sense of revulsion should run through all decent people. You don’t have to like Trump to understand that democratic governance cannot tolerate casual discussion of assassination as a political strategy. 

     Immediately after Trump imposes sanctions on Iran, the Mullahs schedule weekend military exercises to test its missile and radar systems and cyber warfare capabilities  (Reuters)

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