• ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 20

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

     American Otto Warmbier dies after being imprisoned in North Korea. Pres. Trump condemns it as “a brutal regime” and adds “we’ll be able to handle it.” (Fox News)

    Sec. of State Rex Tillerson referred to Warmbier’s “unjust imprisonment” and called for the release of 3 other Americans held there.

    Now, China’s tour agency that takes Americans to North Korea says it will stop those tours. (Fox)

    Comment: The brutality of the North Korean regime is well known. The question is how to constrain the danger they pose to South Korea, Japan, and the United States.

    Russia Warns Washington after US fighter downs a Syrian Warplane. (New York Times)

    Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

    The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

    The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April. –New York Times

    That’s not the only major development.  

    The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war. –New York Times

    Comment: With so many factions fighting in close proximity, there is a huge risk of unintended engagement among the states backing different groups. That, of course, could lead to escalation.

     Theresa May’s weakness casts shadow over Brexit negotiations (Financial Times)

    Britain began the long process of leaving Europe on Monday, but many Conservative MPs are privately speculating whether Theresa May can make it as prime minister through the next few months. –Financial Times

    Comment: May is now deeply unpopular–she’s been called a “dead woman walking”–and leading Tories are trying to find a consensus candidate to replace her as Prime Minister.

    As far as Brexit goes, the PM has also replaced many of the negotiators; the new ones are in disarray. No one knows what Britain’s goal in the negotiations really are.

     Today in European terror: A car with an armed terrorist (he was on France’s watch list) rammed a police car on the Champs-Élysée in Paris. The terrorist’s car burst into flames on the busy street and he later died.  (CNN story here)

    According to the BBC:

    Police found a Kalashnikov rifle, handguns and gas bottles in the car.

    “Security forces have been targeted in France once again,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said, calling it an “attempted attack”. –BBC

    Comment: This problem goes beyond police and intelligence work, although it certainly calls for that. As long as Europe is filled large numbers of unassimilated Muslims, attracted to extreme ideologies, this problem will continue. The key is to work on assimilation, restrictions on new immigration, and more intense intel work.

     Well, at least she didn’t waste the money she stole  Report: Stolen city funds paid for her ‘Brazilian butt lift’ (Gainesville Sun)

    Natwaina Clark’s 177 bogus purchases — totaling more than $93,000 — included cosmetic surgery, SunPass and PayPal.

    An investigative report released Wednesday shows a former city of Gainesville employee, accused of stealing more than $93,000 from the city, spent some of it on a Brazilian butt lift. –Gainesville Sun




  • Waiting for Comey: Scott Stantis’ perfect drawing

    Stantis is the Tribune’s superb editorial cartoonist and a member of their editorial board.

    Before coming to Chicago, he worked for many years at the Birmingham News and, for a year, at the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

    Here, he captures the last 48 hours of CNN in one picture.

    Of course, CNN is hoping for the explosion.


    ⇒ You can follow Scott’s work at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/stantis/

  • James Clapper: The Voice of Wisdom? Not so much

     I’ve been amused by the reverent tone with which Barack Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is received these days.

    He is now hailed as the voice of wisdom and reason.

    That wasn’t always the case. Say, six months ago.

    Clapper is on my mind especially today as his successor, Dan Coats, testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  


    Clapper: Now Bashing Trump Abroad

    In the meantime comes news that  Clapper is bashing Trump in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia.

    The allegations, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Company, are very serious, all the more so because Clapper had access to all US intelligence until the Obama Administration left office in late January.

    Donald Trump’s alleged Russia links will dwarf Watergate scandal, says James Clapper (ABC-Australia)

    Mr Clapper said he was bewildered the President was not more hostile to the Russian regime.

    “I’ve had a real hard time reconciling the threat the Russians pose to the United States and, by extension, Western democracies in general, with inexplicably so solicitous stance the Trump administration, or others in it, has taken with respect to Russia,” he said.

    Mr Clapper’s speech came just days ahead of a highly anticipated Senate committee hearing with sacked FBI director James Comey. –ABC-Australia


    My Less-than-Worshipful Sketch of Clapper in Power

    I wrote about Clapper in less worshipful terms for The Hill back in 2013 when he was stuck with the image of being somewhat bumbling, clueless and even disingenuous.
    Here’s the heart of that piece (link here). It’s worth remembering, now that Clapper is making charges again.

    Strike one: Seeming clueless, during an interview with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer, that 12 men who allegedly had been planning a terrorist attack were arrested in London.

    Strike two: As Hosni Mubarak was falling in Egypt, describing the country’s Muslim Brotherhood as “largely secular.”

    Strike three: In March 2011, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the biggest threats to America are Russia and China. Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) begged to differ, suggesting that Iran and North Korea are bigger threats.

    For those who think that it’s time for Clapper to go, he should get some points on the latter. In June 2013, given the horror of the ongoing war in Syria, a pretty good case could be made that Clapper was right — at the very least in singling out Russia as a festering problem for the U.S.

    –Carol Felsenthal, in The Hill


    Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

    • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
    • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
    • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
    • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

    She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

    She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, June 7

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

     ISIS attack at the heart of Iran’s government is stunning. ISIS, a Sunni group, has been under attack by the Iranian-led Shia forces in Iraq and Syria, and now they’ve struck back.

    The spectacular event is designed to humiliate the Iranians and show that ISIS can strike anywhere, even hard targets in a hostile country.

    Comment: More as it develops. 

     Qatar Qrisis: Trump suggests he led Saudis to act against Qatar’s support of terror (New York Times)

    Comment: True and dumb. True because Trump’s meetings in Saudi Arabia were a key to the new pressure the Arab states are putting on Qatar. Not smart to trumpet the US role when you are relying on others to lead. Makes them look like lap-dogs. 

     Two big stories broken by ABC News:

    1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign because Trump was furious Sessions had recused himself in Russian investigation
    2. Former FBI Director Comey will not say Trump tried to obstruct justice

     Sessions offer to resign (ABC) Jonathan Karl reports:

    The relationship between President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become so tense that Sessions at one point recently even suggested he could resign.

    The friction between the two men stems from the attorney general’s abrupt decision in March to recuse himself from anything related to the Russia investigation — a decision the president only learned about minutes before Sessions announced it publicly. Multiple sources say the recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on. –ABC News

    At a White House press briefing, Sean Spicer would not say whether Trump still supported AG Sessions.

    Comment: First, Sessions was right to recuse himself.

    Second, it’s over; he’s already done it; let it go, Donald.

    Third, if your earliest and strongest supporter from the Senate is not comfortable in the Cabinet, who will be?

    Four, this is still more evidence that, in this ship of state, everybody is rowing in different directions and the captain keeps changing course. What’s missing: self-discipline and a solid staff, given some authority to create order.

     Comey will stop short of saying Trump obstructed justice in Flynn probe (ABC)

    Although Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice, he will dispute the president’s contention that Comey told him three times he is not under investigation.

    The president allegedly said he hoped Comey would drop the Flynn investigation, a request that concerned Comey enough that he documented the conversation in a memo shortly after speaking with the president. In the memo, according to sources close to Comey who reviewed it, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” during a February meeting.

    The request made Comey uncomfortable, but the source tells ABC News that Comey has told associates he will not accuse the president of obstructing justice.

    “He is not going to Congress to make accusations about the president’s intent, instead he’s there to share his concerns,” the source said, and tell the committee “what made him uneasy” and why he felt a need to write the memo documenting the conversation. –ABC

    Comment: Here’s how I read that. Comey cannot say the president tried to obstruct justice without creating big problems for himself. He would be legally required to report it and, if he had any integrity, would have resigned. Also, he subsequently testified to Congress that no one had tried to obstruct his investigation.

    Given those constraints, he will do everything in his power to destroy Trump.

     Comey himself is being sued over an alleged coverup; a whistleblower says he gave Comey evidence of a huge, illegal surveillance operation on Americans by the CIA (using FBI computers) during the Obama administration (Circa)

    A former U.S. intelligence contractor tells Circa he walked away with more than 600 million classified documents on 47 hard drives from the National Security Agency and the CIA, a haul potentially larger than Edward Snowden’s now infamous breach.

    And now he is suing former FBI Director James Comey and other government figures, alleging the bureau has covered up evidence he provided them showing widespread spying on Americans that violated civil liberties.

    The suit, filed late Monday night by Dennis Montgomery, was assigned to the same federal judge who has already ruled that some of the NSA’s collection of data on Americans violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, setting up an intriguing legal proceeding in the nation’s capital this summer.

    Comment: Circa’s Sara Carter and John Solomon have done first-rate reporting on potential violations of civil liberties by US intel agencies.

     Why did Trump decline to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as he promised during the campaign?

    Because he thought it would hamper his goal of an “ultimate deal” between the Israelis and Palestinians, says Eytan Gilboa  (Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan University)

    Trump completely reversed the attitude of Obama, which verged on hostility, towards both the pro-American Arab states and Israel. –Eytan Gilboa

     Excellent news: One of the country’s staunchest, most experienced advocates for free speech, Adam Kissel, has been to head the Dept. of Education’s higher ed programs  (Inside Higher Ed)



  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 5

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

     UPDATE ON London Terror (from the BBC). Police

    • Know the attackers’ identities,
    • Have detained a “number of people” after searches in East London, on top of 12 people arrested Sunday in Barking
    • Report 21 people are still in critical condition.

    With three attacks in three months, terrorism against soft targets is beginning to feel, to some people, like the new normal.

    The brutal reality is that this kind of threat is absolutely typical of what jihadists sought to achieve in all their attacks across Europe.

    Since 2013 security services in the UK have foiled 18 plots. A large proportion of those have involved suspects who set out to commit acts of violence similar to the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

    Plans to use bombs, such as at Manchester Arena, are rarer because plotters need to have the technical skills for such an appalling attack – but attacking people with cars and knives is far easier and has long been encouraged by so-called Islamic State and other jihadists. –BBC

    Comment: The number of potential jihadis in England is beyond the authorities’ ability to track. The number of soft targets is beyond their ability to protect.

    That means hard political choices are coming, not just in England but across Europe to staunch this threat.

    The public simply will not accept this as the “new normal.”

     Dividends from Trump-Saudi talks to contain terror

    The Kingdom, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its constant support of terrorism. CNN reports Bahrain’s tough statement:

    Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to interfere in its affairs, to continue the escalation and incitement of the media, and supporting armed terrorist activities, and financing groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and the principles of international law without regard to values, law, morals, consideration of the principles of good neighborliness, or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations, and the denial of all previous commitments. –CNN

    Since the US has a major base in Qatar, there are direct implications for the US. As CBS headlines it: Major U.S. military ops based in Gulf nations in throes of deep diplomatic rift


    • The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is noteworthy; they have been grumpy with each other recently.
    • CNN’s story fails to mention Trump or the major meeting during his visit that launched this initiative.

     Since we are talking about CNN’s bias: They were just caught staging a “news event” to fit their narrative.

    They even had the white British police officers leave the frame; they were replaced with Asian officers.

    Comment: If CNN fakes the news, how will airport passengers know what is happening?

     One of those lovely stories about private generosity: 70 years ago, a man (now aged 98) bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. Now, it’s worth $2 million, and, since he doesn’t have a family, he’s giving all of it to his favorite charity: the Illinois Audubon Society. (Fox 32 story here)

     Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says “no smoking gun” on Trump-Russia. He quickly adds “at this point”  (The Hill)

    He did say that Trump telling Comey to “let it go” would be “very concerning,” if Comey confirmed it.

    Comment: If there is hard evidence the Trump campaign really did cheat to throw the election, let’s see it. If there is none, let’s get back to governing the country. 

     New chancellor at U. of Missouri says diversity on campus must include “diversity of thought” (Heat Street)

    Comment: The university’s enrollment plummeted, along with its finances, after 2015 demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, threats against student reporters (“get some muscle over here”), and a spineless administration that couldn’t roll over fast enough. Now, they have a new leader on campus with a different idea.

    The question is whether he can implement it and withstand the pushback.




  • Trump’s Hatchet Man, Michael Cohen

    The Bully’s Bully

    Roy Cohn? Tom Hagen?

     Michael Cohen made headlines big time, as his boss, Donald Trump, might say, when he was falsely accused in the infamous “dossier,” complied by a former British spy who was paid by Trump’s opponents. Major media outlets reported tales of Cohen, then Trump’s special counsel and executive VP of the Trump Organization, meeting in August, 2016 in Prague with Kremlin representatives to deliver a peace plan for Ukraine that would somehow allow the Trump administration to ease sanctions against Russia.

    The story, reported widely in major media outlets, was totally discredited, on many fronts, one of which was Cohen showing that he was in Los Angeles on those dates visiting colleges with his son. Cohen tweeted a photograph of his passport with the hashtag #fakenews and wrote that never in his whole life had he ever been to Prague.


    Some Background

     Cohen, 50, occupied the office beside Donald Trump on the 26th floor of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Nicknamed Trump’s “pit bull,” he has served as the Donald’s lawyer, top enforcer, and the concocter of the most absurd, outlandish arguments in defense of his boss.

    He is, in some ways, the reincarnated Roy Cohn; the disgraced lawyer/bully, who was once chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and later represented the young Donald Trump. (Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, abandoned at the end by the germophobe Trump who had once considered Cohn his closest personal and legal advisor and his “greatest” friend.)

    During the campaign, any complaints from political opponents were met with the response that Michael Cohen had nothing to do with the campaign. “I’m not part of the campaign,” Cohen said to every cable host who would have him, and they all had him because he was correctly perceived to be thisclose to Trump.  Politico, last summer, quoted a “Trump insider” as describing Cohen as “….in the room for everything …without exception.”

    He left the Trump Organization last January but continues as the President’s personal attorney based in New York.


    From Backstage to Center Stage

     In the last few days, he has taken center stage as the House Intelligence Committee– part of its investigation in alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election–subpoenaed Cohen’s testimony, personal documents and business records. After first saying he would not cooperate, Cohen changed his mind, texting a New York Times reporter, “To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy. This is not surprising to me because there is none!” (The NYT story is here.)

    A kind of all-purpose consigliere—reporters like to compare him to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s adviser in “The Godfather”–Cohen has been taking on Trump’s enemies since 2006. That was the year he gave up his partnership in a personal injury law firm that had represented Trump and joined the Trump Organization.

    During the campaign, he remained Trump’s most reliable surrogate in sparring with cable hosts—CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in particular, couldn’t seem to get enough of Cohen.


    Putting Out Fires, Lots of Them

    He does not kill them with kindness

     Last summer, when a reporter described a charge of rape that Trump’s first wife and the mother of three of his children lodged against him in 1993, Cohen hit back hard and mean, threatening a Daily Beast writer with not only a $500 million lawsuit, but also: “… Tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting….And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse….. And there’s very clear case law.” (In fact, all 50 states have laws that consider nonconsensual sex with a spouse to constitute rape. Cohen later apologized.)

    Again, complaints were answered with the convenient disclaimer that Cohen is Trump’s business, not political, counsel.

    In reality, Cohen had been up to the knot in his Hermes tie with Trump’s frequent flirtations with running for office.

    Cohen relished recalling highlights of past fledging, exploratory campaigns. In 2012, for instance, when he led a “draft Trump” movement, did advance work for Trump, scoped out New Hampshire and Iowa, and created a “Should Trump Run?” website. “I already mapped out everything that has to be done to be an effective candidate,” he boasted, “and what we’d have to do to get on the ballot on all 50 states.” When Trump threatened to mount a third-party run in 2012 to “make American great again,” Cohen, described as Trump’s “counsel and spokesman,” was at the boss’s side.

    This cycle, Cohen created the “National Diversity Coalition” to boost Trump’s numbers with minorities. He described the group of mostly African American pastors as his “vision” and boasted to Chris Cuomo: “We have an enormous amount of African-Americans, Hispanics. He won in New York amongst Hispanics, male and female in New York. This notion that let’s keep knocking Donald Trump. He’s a racist. He’s misogynist. He’s sexist. None of them are true.”


    Tackling Trump’s Critics Head On

     If Trump seems intemperate in confronting his critics, Cohen is, figuratively speaking, foaming at the mouth.

    In 2011 Cohen told ABC News, “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit…..If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In 2013, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a fraud suit against Trump University, Cohen responded: “The damage to the attorney general is going to be very significant,” he told The New Yorker. “So significant that he will possibly have to resign.” Earlier this month, Cohen told CNN’s Erin Burnett that “Trump University had a 98 percent approval rating…..Why don’t you ask [about]…. the 14-year-old boy who went with his mom and ended up making a million dollars?”

    The Daily Mail described Cohen more recently as he “gleefully reminisced about ruining the reputation of former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin after she suggested Miss USA had been rigged.”

    During the campaign, the artist who drew a nude portrait of Trump sporting a tiny penis—relevant only because of the loony Rubio/Trump exchange over hand/penis size—was threatened by Cohen with a law suit. Same for the New York Times, after it ran last month’s story on Trump’s treatment of women.  (Cohen later said he’d settle for a retraction and an apology; he got neither.) Before RNC head Reince Priebus accepted that the GOP was stuck with Trump as its party’s nominee, Cohen blasted Priebus for doing a “terrible” job and meekly implementing the establishment’s plan to prevent his boss from becoming the nominee. Either Trump gets treated fairly,” Cohen blustered, or “this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party….. Woe be on them.”

    In June 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with the concocted message that she had “murdered an ambassador,” referring to American ambassador Christopher Stevens slaughtered in a 2012 attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.  (The Washington Post headlined the story as “Trump Lawyer Tweets Image Saying Hillary Clinton ‘Murdered’ Ambassador“)


    Fiercely Loyal to “The Patriarch”

     Like Trump—always “Mr. Trump” to Cohen—the American University-educated (college and law school) Cohen will say anything to boost the boss–“an entrepreneur extraordinaire,…insanely bright,” Cohen told CNN’s Jake Tapper. The “best [negotiator] in the history of this world,” Cohen told Chris Cuomo. In January 2013, when CNN reported that Trump was considering buying the New York Times. Cohen weighed in: “Mr. Trump is so smart and so rich that if he wants it, he will get it. ….There is nothing he can’t buy.” (One could argue that Cohen, in making this boast, had the presidency in mind as well.)

    For those close to him, Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty, Mr. Trump” is “… more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

    Cohen was at the ready during this campaign with public defenses of anything Trump might say or do. The boss’s wild gesticulation as he mimicked New York Times reporter Serge Kovalski’s physical disability: “Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars, each and every year in order to combat disabilities.”

    Trump’s evidence-free claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated in Jersey City on 9/11 when the Twin Towers came down:  “I can tell you that Mr. Trump’s memory is fantastic, and I’ve never [witnessed] a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.” To bolster Trump’s charge, during an exchange with Jake Tapper, Cohen added that he has heard that the cheers were coming not only from Jersey City, but also from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

    Oh, and Trump’s comments about Mexicans—rapists, drug dealers, etc.—his boss “never made any derogatory or disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

    Not only that, he “has a great relationship with Latinos.”

    If elected president, Trump, would “go down in history as the Great Unifier,” Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty,

    Another candidate for his party’s nomination might fire an underling who made, for example, the rape remark. Cohen kept his job. In 2011 The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis quoted Cohen as explaining Trump’s indecision about running for president and his shifting views on abortion: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”


    Michael Cohen at Home

     Cohen, married and the father of two—see below–is the son of a Holocaust survivor. Raised on Long Island and educated in a Yeshiva there, he calls himself an “agnostic Jew.”

    Last month, he tweeted to his 218,000 twitter followers a photo of his “Ivy League” daughter Samantha wearing black stockings and a lacy bra. “So proud…brains and beauty…”

    “Jealous?” Cohen responded when one twitter user suggested that the photo was pornographic. (The Washington Post report on that incident is here.)


    Like Trump, A Democrat for Many Years

     Like two of Trump’s children, Cohen was a registered democrat and so couldn’t vote for the boss in New York’s GOP primary. (He registered as a republican last March and joined the RNC’s finance leadership team.)

    His democratic roots run deep—once an intern for Massachusetts democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, he also volunteered for Michael Dukakis’s presidential run in 1988, and voted for Obama in 2008. He now calls that vote a mistake, explaining, in true Trumpian terms, that he quickly grew disillusioned. Under Obama, he told ABC News, America has become a “third-world nation.”

    Cohen has himself given a whirl to elective politics. In 2003 he ran for a New York City Council seat, losing badly to Success Academy founder/charter school maven Eva Moskovitz. In 2009, he lasted only a few weeks in a run for a New York state senate seat.

    Cohen owns several apartments in Trump buildings and mixes with, in Cohen’s words in an ABC interview, “super high net worth people.” He favors Dolce & Gabbana suits and, as mentioned, Hermes ties. (Apparently the loyalty to Trump goes far, but not so far as to wear Trump’s made-in-China ties.)

    After severing ties with Trump’s company, Cohen, in typically hyperbolic terms, told the Washington Post, “This is a very unusual president, because there’s never been a president of the United States worth $10 billion, with 600 or 700 corporations that have national and international relations.”


    Cohen’s Loyalty to Trump Runs Deep, and His Role Should Continue to Grow

     As Cohen’s behavior becomes more outlandish—why mention Trump’s hundreds of business ties when he has promised to leave them in the hands of his sons?– his stature in Trump world will likely continue to grow.

    Should be both entertaining and alarming to watch.


    Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

    • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
    • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
    • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
    • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

    She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

    She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 3

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

     Sec. of Defense James Mattis calls North Korea “a clear and present danger,” not just to America but to the world (AP via Washington Post)

    Significantly, Mattis made the speech in Asia.

    More bad news: On Friday, China blocked US-supported sanctions against North Korea at the UN Security Council.

    North Korea is accelerating its push to acquire a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States and other nations, and the U.S. regards this as a “clear and present danger,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.

    Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore, Mattis said the Trump administration is encouraged by China’s renewed commitment to working with the U.S. and others to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons. He also said he thinks China, which is North Korea’s closest ally, ultimately will see it as a liability. –Washington Post

    Mattis gave mixed reviews to US relations with China:

    “We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo” in the South China Sea, he said.

    Overall, Mattis’ speech struck a positive, hopeful tone for cooperation and peace in the Asia-Pacific region, where he and his predecessors have made it a priority to nurture and strengthen alliances and partnerships.

    “While competition between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable,” he said. “Our two countries can and do cooperate for mutual benefit. We will pledge to work closely with China where we share common cause.”

    He was, however, unrelentingly critical of North Korea, a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the United States as a military threat, in part because of periodic U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which the North sees as preparations for attacks aimed at destroying its ruling elite. –Washington Post

    Comment: The US is turning up the temperature on both China and North Korea.

     Comey’s upcoming testimony

    Comment: The ABC story is reported by Captain Obvious

     Early Trump administration was preparing to ease Russia sanctions, but was blocked by US diplomats who went to Congress  That’s what NBC is reporting, with retired diplomats going on the record.

     Three former top execs at Penn State given jail time for failing to act on reports of sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky (ESPN)

    Comment: By failing to do their jobs, they put more children in danger. 

     Kathy Griffin has decided that she’s the victim. “Trump broke me” (CBS)

    Comment: She’s disgusting.

     LA Times covers for her. Their Headline: She’s “tearful but resilient”

    Comment: They’re disgusting




  • Why America’s Political Crisis is So Profound. My latest at Real Clear Politics

    The column is here at Real Clear Politics.

    The op-ed tries to go beyond the partisan arguments you already know.

    Instead, it focuses on the country’s deep divisions, as they are reflected in sharply divergent responses to the allegations against Pres. Trump and his aides.


    The heart of the matter is that the opposing sides are making very serious allegations–and making them sincerely.

    Each side thinks it is defending America’s most fundamental constitutional values, while the other side is deliberately undermining them.

    These opposing positions build on already-deep divisions in American politics and society–and reinforce them.

    There are some bright spots in this dark tangle, and I consider them, too.

    Here, again, is the link.


    I welcome your thoughts.

    And, of course, please feel free to share this or any other post at ZipDialog.

  • How Bad is CNN’s Bias?

    I just watched the first ten minutes of Wolf Blitzer’s show, The Situation Room. 

    The entire first ten minutes were devoted to Trump and Russia. They were still on the topic when I turned off the show.

    How mono-maniacal is their focus?

    Well, Pres. Trump went to Arlington Cemetery to honor America’s military and put flowers on the graves of the fallen.

    CNN has a huge headline across the screen during the entire episode. The approximate wording (I didn’t take a screen shot) was:
    “Trump Honors American Military while Under Russia Investigation”

    The two events are completely separate. He goes to Arlington Cemetery and makes an appropriate speech. His administration is also under investigation.

    CNN is so determined to maintain its single, negative focus that it cannot even treat the Arlington Cemetery ceremony as a distinct event.


    Comment: I’ll let you determine if CNN besmirched the fallen.

    I will simply say that CNN’s coverage reminds me of the joke about a Jew obsessed about Israel.

    After a long monologue to a friend on the subject, the friend says, “Let’s talk about something else, for heaven’s sake. I just read this interesting story about Einstein.”

    “Oh, yes. He was asked to be the first Presidency of Israel.”

    That’s CNN’s approach to news today. CNN headline: “Einstein would be appalled at Trump’s anti-science views, says biographer”

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, May 27

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

     Trump’s back home and the Russian mess is still dogging him.

    He’s considering major changes at the White House to cope. Washington Post says the allegations “threaten to consume his Presidency”

    The White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates — including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser — and Russia.

    White House officials also are trying to find ways to revive Trump’s stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.

    That includes proposals for more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters, as well as changes in the pace and nature of news briefings, probably including a diminished role for embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer. –Washington Post

    Comment: These allegations are why the investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller are so important–and why it needs to move quickly. If there really was collusion with the Russians, the public and Congress need to know. Same if there was no collusion since the allegations themselves are making it hard to govern.

     The most important comment in US politics this week:

    Mitch McConnell’s “I don’t know how we get to 50,” votes to pass a health-care reform bill

    He did express some optimism on tax reform. (Reuters via Business Insider)

    Politico reports: “McConnell Steps Into ObamaCare Firing Line”

    Comment: This process is going to be very painful as the insurance markets narrow and premiums go up. Those who pay them are going to be mad as hell. Those who might be harmed by reforms are going to be just as mad.

    Politically, the question is whether voters will hold Democrats responsible for making the mess or Republicans for failing to fix it.

    My hunch: it is much easier to be the party out of power, casting the blame for failure. Since the Republicans hold both Houses and the Presidency, they won’t have much luck pointing the finger at Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.

     American Airlines passenger tried to bite flight attendant, then ran off the plane. Now in custody.  (Washington Post)

    Likely Sentence: To be dragged repeatedly up and down the aisle of a United flight while listening to an endless loop of instructions on how to buckle your seat belt.

    (Btw, is there anybody left who doesn’t grasp the vexing concept of buckling a seat belt? Still, I am delighted to hear the detailed explanation on every single flight. I’m sure the flight attendants love doing it, too. Also, except for Sully Sullenberger, is there any such thing as a “water landing”? Isn’t there another term for that?)

     Uber and Lyft beat the city of Austin, will return on their terms  (The Verge)

    Austin didn’t give in on the requirements that led the ride-sharing companies to pull out for a year. But the Texas legislature just passed a bill that says the state, not the city, is in charge of setting the requirements. The key state requirement is annual background checks on the drivers.

     Little Caesar’s delivered a pizza (allegedly) labeled “halal.” The recipient says it was pepperoni. So, naturally, he is suing . . . for $100 million  (USA Today)

    Comment: I can see the plaintiff’s point. Pepperoni is virtually impossible to detect on pizza.

    But is $100 million really enough?