• “Can You Hear Me Now?” Trump Team Voices Credible Threat of Force Against North Korea

    My op-ed at The Hill discusses the challenges of coercive diplomacy.

    The central question of the piece:

    Why has the United States has fundamentally changed its strategy toward the North Korea, given the risks of the new strategy?

    My answer:

    The short answer is that the Trump Administration has concluded that time is on North Korea’s side, not ours. Temporizing, they think, will only magnify the dangers as Pyongyang steadily develops its intercontinental missiles and miniaturizes the nuclear weapons that sit atop them.

    Washington’s new strategy is to direct military threats at Pyongyang via Beijing, which dreads a war on the peninsula.

    The hard part is to resolve the issue without actually using force, which could lead to vast casualties.

    In making these threats, Trump has already achieved a huge advantage over Pres. Obama.

    The advantage? Trump’s threats to use force are credible. For the first time in years, the Chinese and North Koreans–and America’s friends in the region–have to take that seriously. So should Americans as this knife-edge drama unfolds.

  • 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.

     

  • North Korea’s Nuclear Threat: What Steps Should the US Take?

    Guest Author: Richard Friedman

    Richard Friedman was chair of the National Strategy Forum/Chicago. He has served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Counselor to the American Bar Association Committee on National Security.

    [Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. For the visuals, blame Charles Lipson.  

    Readers are invited to respond. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.]

    ◆ North Korea’s Nuclear Threat

    There are six components to the potential US/North Korea nuclear confrontation:

    1. North Korea rational
    2. North Korea irrational
    3. US rational
    4. US irrational
    5. China, and
    6. South Korea

    China is the best bet for the US because they have urged US and North Korea restraint and calm.

    South Korea is undergoing a government leadership crisis. They also urge calm because they would be the battleground in the event that North Korea would be provoked by the US or would be self-provoked.

    China is proactive. In addition to urging calm, they have restricted their coal exports to North Korea and they have canceled their air carrier flights to Pyongyang. China’s most important leverage is its substantial food exports to North Korea.

    A future North Korean Nuclear Test is Likely

    It is likely that North Korea will conduct its sixth nuclear test in the near future. The appropriate US response is to do nothing, certainly no retaliation. The US should keep the Vinson First Strike Carrier Group on station within striking distance of North Korea as a show of force, with weapons muzzled for a few more weeks awaiting mutual calm, and then depart for Australia as planned. The US has proved in Syria its tactical military capability to obliterate North Korea’s nuclear weapon sites and degrade its delivery system. There is no US need to engage in media military posturing.

    An indicia for calm is North Korea’s recent intermediate missile launch that failed. Speculation is that the US used its cyber Stuxnet capability to scramble the North Korea missile test code, resulting in failure.

    The US frame for its North Korea objective should be: no preemptive, kinetic first strike; and reliance on its counter-incoming missile capability that can intercept and destroy 60-80 percent of North Korea’s incoming missiles to the US west coast (solace is somewhat lacking for Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington).

    Etymology is part of the military force consideration array. The word “provoke” is hugely imprecise because it has different meanings for both sides. For the US, it would be North Korea’s active launch preparation of its nuclear-tipped ICBM. For North Korea, “US provocation” would be any discernible military force attack on North Korea’s targets, or their perception that a US strike is imminent.

    Notwithstanding the recent perceived crisis, North Korea remains relatively stable. This could change because of the variables that are involved: removal of Kim, either by a targeted US strike followed by a North Korean military attack on South Korea.

    Contemporary US history suggests that broad US domestic support for major US military action is essential – political unity and public and media support. The US administration must make a clear and persuasive argument that justifies a US military attack on North Korea. Failure to do so would portray the US as trigger-happy.

    The Trump administration primary objective was to focus on domestic issues such as health care, middle class employment, tax reform, and enhancing and protecting the US critical infrastructure. Surprise! The global issues are the US priority: North Korea, Russia, Iran, Syria, and ISIS.

    The potential US strategy:

    America First, with the condition that addressing and partially resolving international matters is the predicate for focusing on domestic issues.

    The US has recaptured global perception of its international leadership role and responsibility: fear the US, respect us, and love us, maybe.
    Recent international developments suggest that the US is in the process of developing a comprehensive domestic and international strategy to be followed by tactical implementation.

    The US can enhance the efficacy of its strategy by adopting a “complementary strategy” approach, wherein the US consults with other states to determine their strategic objectives, if any, and incorporate item, if possible, into overall US strategy. An example of US transformative strategy is the US/China burgeoning favorable relationship.

    Overall, the current North Korea crisis is not a crisis, rather it is part of a prolonged, oscillating adversarial relationship. In this context, the North Korean threat is not its nuclear capability, rather, it is how the US manages the current North Korea non-crisis.

    The opinions in this post are those of Richard Friedman. He and ZipDialog welcome your response, either here or on Facebook, where it is also posted.

  • 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 Sunday, April 9

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

     “Trump’s Syria Missile Strike Ramps Up Tensions with Moscow” (Bloomberg)

    The Trump administration warned that it’s ready to take further military action if the regime of Bashar al-Assad wages another chemical attack, even as this week’s missile strike ratcheted up tensions with Russia. . . .

    Russia pushed back. “Our western colleagues live in their own parallel reality, in which they first try to build joint plans single-handedly and then — again single-handedly — change them, inventing absurd reasons,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said by phone. –Bloomberg

    Comment: Equally important, the strike puts Iran’s huge investment in Assad in peril.

     Oddly, Vogue‘s glowing article on Bashar Al-Assad’s wife doesn’t seem to be online anymore at their site. Not sure why.  (The Atlantic on the story gone missing. And here, dear readers, is the actual article, “A Rose in the Desert,” in Vogue, which has been preserved by Gawker.)

    Comment: Still checking to see if GQ ran something on Bashar’s attire for launching chemical-weapons attacks.

     Good morning, Pyongyang: US sending aircraft carrier group to Korean Peninsula  (CNN)

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump and [China’s] Xi agreed on the “urgency of the threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program” and agreed to work together to resolve the issue “peacefully.” –CNN

    Comment: The Vinson carrier group is a message, not a foreshadowing of conflict. China has hard choices to make here, as does the US.

     He lobbied for gay rights and opposed Trump — now Seattle’s mayor is accused of sexually assaulting minors  (Washington Post)

    Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, a nationally famous champion of gay rights and progressive causes, has been accused by three men of having sex with them as children. –Washington Post

    Comment: These scandals are equal opportunity. Yesterday, the sex scandal involved Alabama’s socially-conservative Republican governor. (Here’s a CNN report on it.) Today, it’s Seattle’s ultra-liberal mayor.

     Creative Destruction: Online purchases driving out bricks-and-mortar retailers faster than ever (Bloomberg) Both high-end and low-end stores are affected.

    At the bottom, the seemingly ubiquitous Payless Inc. shoe chain filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to shutter hundreds of locations. Ralph Lauren Corp., meanwhile, said it will close its flagship Fifth Avenue Polo store — a symbol of old-fashioned luxury that no longer resonates with today’s shoppers. –Bloomberg

     Another Islamist attack on Middle Eastern Christians, this one on a Coptic Church in Egypt (BBC)

    Comment: These crazed terrorists come from regions and religions that have not transitted through the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the hard-won achievement of political and religious tolerance.

    The only reason you don’t read about even more such attacks is that intolerance and terror has driven them, as well as Jews, from these countries.

    It is shameful that, for several years, the US has done so little to speak out against these systematic, lethal attacks on Christians in the Middle East. Let us hope that changes now.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, March 20

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

     Darwin at work: “Selfie-crazed teens keep falling through frozen Central Park pond” (New York Post)

    Another group of kids attempting to take a selfie on top of some ice at The Pond in Central Park plunged into its icy waters, officials said.

    Luckily, they were able to swim ashore and then walked away from the scene, multiple witnesses told the NYPD. –New York Post

     North Korea’s Test of Rocket Engine Shows “Meaningful Progress,” South Says  (New York Times). North Korea certainly agrees.

    North Korea said on Sunday that it had conducted a ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust missile engine, which its leader, Kim Jong-un, called “a great event of historic significance.” –New York Times

    Comment: I expect the US to ratchet up the pressure significantly over the coming year.  Yes, the Chinese have been reluctant to put the screws to Pyongyang, mainly because they fear the regime could collapse. But the Chinese must be growing concerned themselves. Why? Because

    • The US is not rolling over anymore
    • The Japanese and South Koreans are certain to begin arming themselves in defense
    • Something rarely mentioned: The Koreans are historic enemies of China, and Beijing might be worried about which way those missiles might point

     Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch hearings begin Monday. 

    Washington Post headline suggests the expectation: “Gorsuch seen by man as smart, modest nominee for High Court” 

    Comment: He should sail through. But first . . . the Senators will preen for their political bases. Meaningless theater. 

    Then, the Senators will try to get him to say how he would decide controversial cases. He won’t. They know he won’t. Again, meaningless theater.

    Cable TV will feature more meaningless blather.

    Democratic Senators from deep blue states will likely vote no. D’s from purple states probably won’t want to vote against an obviously well-qualified, mild-mannered nominee.

    They’ll save their powder for the next nominee.

     Chance the Rapper: making contributions to his community

    The story is here, at Bustle.

     Bad news for brick-and-mortar retailers as shopping moves online. No simple fix for declining foot traffic and lower profit margins, says the Wall Street Journal, as chains scale back.

     

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    ♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Randi Belisomo
    for the Chance the Rapper tweet

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 10

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

     “Scientists Closer to Creating a Fully Synthetic Yeast Genome” (NPR)

    An international research consortium reports Thursday that it has figured out an efficient method for synthesizing a substantial part of the genetic code of yeast. . . .

    The milestone is the latest development in the intensifying quest to create living, complex organisms from scratch in the lab. This group previously reported it had completely synthesized one of yeast’s 16 chromosomes, which are the molecular structures that carry all of an organism’s genes. –NPR

    Comment: THIS IS ASTOUNDING.

     South Korean president removed from office after impeachment by parliament is upheld by Constitutional Court

    New elections to replace Park Geun-hye must be held within 60 days. The leader, far and away, is a leftist who wants to pursue more accommodation with North Korea and might well ask the US to remove its newly arrived anti-missile system. (Washington Post)

    Comment: Beijing and Pyongyang would welcome such an appeasement policy toward the increasingly aggressive and erratic regime in North Korea. Indeed, Chinese pressure on Seoul to do just that has been ratcheting up.

     Students at Wellesley College: Transgender Woman Can’t Be Diversity Officer Because She’s a White Man Now (National Review Online)

    Timothy Boatwright was born a girl, and checked off the “female” box when applying to the Massachusetts all-women’s school, according to an article in the New York Times.

    But when he got there, he introduced himself as a “masculine-of-center genderqueer” person named “Timothy” (the name he picked for himself) and asked them to use male pronouns when referring to him.

    And, by all accounts, Boatwright felt welcome on campus — until the day he announced that he wanted to run for the school’s office of multicultural affairs coordinator, whose job is to promote a “culture of diversity” on campus.  –National Review Online

    Comment: You have to watch with fascination the world of “diversity politics” when Wellesley students reject–as insufficiently diverse–what could be planet earth’s only self-identified female who uses the descriptor, “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” 

    At Wellesley’s diversity carnival, the prime attraction seems to be an ancient mythical symbol, the Ouroboros. This serpent is eating its own tail.

     More evidence for those who think the end is near:
    “Toxic wild boars reportedly stalk Fukushima residents”
      (Fox News)

    Hundreds of boars carrying highly radioactive material are reportedly stalking residents hoping the Japanese town of Fukushima six years after the meltdown of the nuclear plant. –Fox News

     NYT: “After halting start, Trump plunges into Effort to Repeal Health Law”  (New York Times)

    There are East Room meetings, evening dinners and sumptuous lunches — even a White House bowling soiree. Mr. Trump is deploying the salesman tactics he sharpened over several decades in New York real estate. His pitch: He is fully behind the bill to scotch President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, but he is open to negotiations on the details. –New York Times

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ A friend who forwarded the Wellesley story
     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 6

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

     The new healthcare bill, replacing Obamacare, has been introduced in the House. Keeps several key (and expensive) features of Obamacare and adds tax credits (direct cash payments) to help poor pay for coverage. No mandates.

    • As specialists begin offering detailed commentary, I will include summaries.
    • As political battlelines form, I will include stories and excerpts.

     Robert Osborne, warm and knowledgeable host of Turner Classic Movies, dead at 84. (New York Times)

    He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world. –Steven Spielberg on Robert Osborne

     Self-driving bus with no backup driver will soon be on the road in California. Part of a pilot program. (Reuters)

    The bus project in San Ramon, at the Bishop Ranch office park complex, involves two 12-passenger shuttle buses from French private company EasyMile.

    The project is backed by a combination of private companies and public transit and air quality authorities, with the intention of turning it into a permanent, expanded operation . . . .

    California legislators late last year passed a law to allow slow-speed testing of fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals on public roads, with the Bishop Ranch test in mind. –Reuters

     South Korea receives US missile defense system, strongly opposed by China  (CNN)

    Comment: Quick heads up for Beijing: A lot more of this is coming, including stronger US-Japanese ties, and you know why. It’s your wingman in Pyongyang, plus your own aggressive moves in the South China Sea. The THAAD missile system is, of course, solely to defend against North Korean missiles. China has a large arsenal that could overwhelm it.

     Big new Exxon investments in chemical and oil refining plants. $20 billion, 12k permanent jobs, plus 35k construction jobs building the plants in Texas and Louisiana (Reuters)

    The plants had been planned for some time but their scope has grown significantly.

     New findings from the University of the Obvious: “Sex might make you happier at work, study says”  (New York Daily News)

    The U of O always does great work.

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, February 13

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

     China says it is futile for US to pressure North Korea without addressing Pyongyang’s “concerns” (Fox)

    Translation: Beijing is not going to help Washington deal with North Korea, at least not without getting something in return.

    Comment: This is the Trump Administration’s first test and North Korea did it deliberately to poke a finger in the eye of the US and Japan while Japan’s Prime Minister was visiting Trump. My expectation is that the Trump Administration will ramp up support for Japanese defense and add whatever sanctions it can to North Korea. The more the US supports South Korea and Japan, the worse things are for China’s security. That may cause Beijing to recalculate, but likely not.

     Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser, in deep trouble; White House declines to defend him publicly (Time)

    A top White House aide sidestepped repeated chances Sunday to publicly defend embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn following reports that he engaged in conversations with a Russian diplomat about U.S. sanctions before Trump’s inauguration.

    The move, or lack thereof, added uncertainty as Trump dealt with North Korea’s apparent first missile launch of the year and his presidency. The president was also welcoming the leaders of Israel and Canada this week. –Time

    Comment: WHere’s my guess: Trump will cut you some slack when you are talking to the public, but the reports are that Flynn lied to VP Mike Pence, who went out and repeated Flynn’s story to the public. So, Pence is now embarrassed, through no fault of his own.

    Why not bring in Petraeus? It would be an upgrade.

     Angela Merkel, the most stable political figure in a shaky Europe, is now being squeezed by left and right (New York Times)

    She is considered the indispensable European, yet one of the biggest questions looming over the Continent’s crucial elections this year is whether Germany still regards Angela Merkel as indispensable, too.

    Seven months before national elections in Germany, the prevailing wisdom has held that Ms. Merkel, now seeking a fourth four-year term as chancellor, is most vulnerable to the rising popularity of the country’s far right, just as other populist, far-right parties are gaining in coming elections in the Netherlands and France.

    Yet suddenly, Germany’s left has unexpectedly resurged, prompting Der Spiegel magazine this weekend to pose a question on its cover: “Will She Fall?” –New York Times

    Comment: Her disastrously bad idea, as far as the German electorate is concerned: letting 1 million Middle-East immigrants into the country over the citizens’ vocal objections.

     Media Jerks attack Betsy DeVos for Tweet that misspells “W.E.B. Du Bois” name

    Typical is Esquire headline: “Our New Department of Education Can’t Spell Good”

    Comment: Turns out the Tweet was written by a career employee at the  Department of Education. In any case, the employee was trying to do something decent–unlike the execrable Esquire writer, Peter Wade, who was merely showing his contempt for lesser mortals.

     “McConnell’s remark boosts Warren’s profile as Democrats look for new leader” (Washington Times)

    With President Obama out of the picture, Democrats are in the market for a new leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren has catapulted to the top of the list of contenders for many progressive Democrats, courtesy of Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

    Last week’s high-profile dust-up with Mr. McConnell on the Senate floor — the Massachusetts Democrat was silenced after Republicans found her in violation of a little-used rule against insulting other senators — has bolstered Ms. Warren’s image in the eyes of voters who range from die-hard party activists to Republicans searching for a new allegiance after the presidential election of Donald Trump.

    “I think that there was something kind of galvanizing about that moment — having an old white guy shut up a woman,” said Kristen Corcoran, a 37-year-old Indiana native who lives in the District of Columbia. “As a woman, it is like, ‘Yeah, we have all been there,’ and I think that is going to strike a chord with people.” –Washington Times

    Comment: It is hard to know whether McConnell’s motive was to

    1. restore some level of comity on the Senate floor or
    2. promote Elizabeth Warren and help her become the face of the Democratic Party

    But if his goal was to raise Warren’s profile and put at the forefront of the national Democratic Party. . . he is very, very smart. She can carry the college towns and wealthy suburbs. Period.

    ◆ Speaking of education working, or not working

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Michael Lipson for the education poster