• 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.



  • 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.




  • 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.



  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, March 11

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

    ◆ Comment: The Trump presidency will be in deep trouble if it cannot pass a repeal-and-replace bill.

    Right now, the White House and Congressional leadership face real problems from the right in House (which doesn’t want to keep Obamacare’s big subsidies to the poor, locking in an entitlement) and centrist Republicans in the Senate (who fear they cannot be reelected in moderate states if they repeal these subsidies). Think: small fairway with a water hazard on the right and thick bushes on the left.

    The House Freedom Caucus expresses principled opposition to entitlement expansion. Basically, they want repeal without replace. The members are all in safe districts that Trump won, so the members may be reluctant to oppose a president popular among their voters. It’s hard to know if these members can be pressured by Speaker Ryan and the White House to sell out their principles.

    The moderate Senators are harder to pressure because they fear a wrong vote could cost them their seats. In the past, they could be coaxed by side-payments. That’s what Pres. Obama did with the “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase.” Those backfired and they won’t work this time.

    This is sausage-making at its bloodiest. It’s not even clear the pig is dead yet.

     Michael Flynn, former NSC adviser, was paid to represent Turkish interests during the Trump campaign  (New York Times)

    Comment: Although Turkey is a NATO member and the lobbying work was not illegal, it is stunning that he did not register as a “foreign agent” contemporaneously (he is only doing so now) and that the Trump vetting team didn’t catch this advance. He can’t say he forgot. The check was for $500k. It is a very good thing he’s already gone. 

     Top Democrats’ tech aide, now under criminal investigation, had access to their private emails, including DNC emails  The details are here. (Daily Caller)

    Imran Awan — the lead suspect in a criminal probe into breaches of House of Representatives information security systems — possessed the password to an iPad used by then-Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz when DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks. . . .

    The FBI requested access to the DNC’s server to find out who was responsible, but the DNC refused, FBI Director James Comey said, according to The Hill.

    Politico reported that New York Rep. Gregory “Meeks and, to a larger extent, Wasserman Schultz, are said to have a friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”

    House authorities set their sights on the Awans while investigating the existence of a secret server that was funneling congressional data off-site.

    They also suspect Imran of stealing money and equipment. –Daily Caller

     Good News on Free Speech: Univ. of Chicago proposes ‘free speech deans’ to prevent disruptive conduct (Campus Reform)

    The University of Chicago could soon implement new policies that would severely limit “those engaged in disruptive conduct” from preventing “others from speaking or being heard.”

    A recently-released faculty committee report also suggests establishing “free speech deans-on-call” trained to “deal with disruptive conduct” in order to ensure students are not prevented from expressing themselves on campus. –Anthony Gockowski at Campus Reform





  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, Dec. 16

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

    Opinion: China’s seizure of a US drone sub in international waters is a very big deal and a test of the Obama administration’s resolve on a core US interest for over 100 years: freedom of navigation.

    ◆ I’m in the South today–and happy to be in my native habitat. Clear marker of my location: More Ford 150s parked on my block than in all Chicago.

    Had lunch at one of the great roadside attractions, “Lambert’s: Home of the Throwed Rolls.”  It’s near the junction of I-55 and I-57 in the boot heel of Missouri. Granted, I am overweight, but at Lambert’s, compared to the other diners, I look like a Kenyan marathon runner.

    Turkey, an American partner in NATO, slides into dictatorship under Erdogan. (ME Forum)

    Pres. Obama’s plan to pardon millions of illegal immigrants is blocked by his Attorney General as itself illegal. (Express)

    Hillary’s big donors don’t attribute her loss to Russia, says Thomas Lifson in the American Thinker.

    ◆ Related story: Obama plans to sanction Russia over hacking (AFP at Yahoo News)

    ◆ Note: posting at ZipDialog will be less frequent during the holidays.




  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, Dec. 12

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

    ◆ If Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is picked to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, lots of Democrats and some Republicans will push back hard, says the Wall Street Journal.

    Republican hesitation over Mr. Tillerson marked the first sign of division between congressional GOP and the Trump team over its likely cabinet picks. All of President-elect Donald Trump’s other nominees so far appear likely to be confirmed by the Senate.

    Mr. Tillerson, a seasoned deal-maker whose company has a long history of doing business in Russia, is drawing unease from senators on both sides of the aisle. Republicans can likely afford to lose only two GOP votes next year in the new Congress when it meets to consider Mr. Trump’s nominees. –Wall Street Journal

    Some reservations, like those of John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are to be expected. But Marc Rubio (R-FL and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) also raised a warning sign. “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir,’” he tweeted, “is not an attribute I am hoping for” in the next secretary of state.

    But it might be an attribute Trump is looking for, or at least doesn’t care much about. Tillerson is a very experienced deal-maker with extensive international experience, and he has run the biggest company in the world extremely profitably.

    Clarice Feldman’s weekly column is always smart and incisive. This week’s is no exception. Her target is large philanthropies, which, she argues, are often engaged in openly political agendas, pay senior officials rich salaries, and operate with little public oversight, despite their tax-exempt status. (American Thinker) She is particularly critical of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, and Pew Charitable Trusts.

    She proposes 5 strategies to rein them in:

    1. Impose greater oversight of their tax-exempt status at both the state and federal levels
    2. Stop their tax-exempt grants for political lobbying
    3. Make them pay out endowments more rapidly
    4. Require them to state their charitable aims more clearly and then stick to those aims
    5. Demand transparency

    Comment: These are characteristically thoughtful ideas. Most seem sensible, and all are worth debating. It’s obvious (to me) that these foundations should not be used for private enrichment and political activity at taxpayer expense. Do that on your own dime. But I have one reservation as we debate these issues. We need to prevent the government from crushing independent elements of civil society, and that includes foundations.

    Private foundations, like other elements of civil society, stands between citizens and their government, largely outside the state’s control. The more control government has over these foundations, beyond preventing fraud, the more like they are to squash the organizations’ independence and direct them to support government policy. That is exactly how Lois Lerner and her comrades were using the IRS. They controlled the spigot of tax exemption, giving it to charities whose purposes they approved and denying it to those they disliked.

    Any changes, like those proposed by Feldman, need to be sure to cut out the cancer and not the healthy tissue of civil society.

    ◆ The Anti-Defamation League is one of the most prominent voices in the Jewish community, particularly in the fight against discrimination, not when it affects Jews but also when it affects blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, and others. For years, it was ably run by Abe Foxman.

    Now, controversy is swirling around his successor, Jonathan Greenblatt, who has deep roots in progressive politics and has steered the ADL in a radically different direction from Foxman.

    Writing the NY Post, Alex VanNess, levels serious criticism against Greenblatt’s leadership of the ADL. Under him, VanNess says, the ADL has devised school lesson plans that promote Black Lives Matter “despite BLM’s support for BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction against Israel) and open hostility toward Israel.”

    Greenblatt has thrown the ADL into the fight in favor of Obamacare, even though it has no clear relationship to his organization’s missions.

    He has supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), running to head the Democratic National Committee, as a “man of good character,” despite recordings of Ellison saying Israel and the Jews control US foreign policy.

    VanNess says Greenblatt won’t change and the ADL should toss him out.

    ◆ Is Turkey Still a Democracy, asks the International Business Times, as Pres. Erdogan seeks to expand his powers still further?

    Comment: The answer to IBT’s question contains only two letters.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Marcia Sukenik Weiss
     for the Anti-Defamation League story
    ◆ Belladonna Rogers for Clarice Feldman’s column


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, Dec. 4

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

    ◆ Can Trump simply cancel Obama’s Executive Actions? It’s harder and slower than it sounds, says Andrew Rudalevige in the Washington Post.

    The items in [President-elect Trump’s] list range from things clearly within the president’s unilateral authority to those that will require a fair bit of cooperation from others.

    For instance, rolling back federal regulations may be slow going because of legal requirements.regulations-labeled-200px-no-margins

    Repealing an existing regulation requires a rulemaking process of its own, subject to the Administrative Procedure Act — this can take months or years. The Supreme Court has held that a rule can’t be rescinded simply to reduce regulation; there has to be “a reasoned basis for the agency’s action.” . . .

    More important, the issuance of regulations is often required by law — and the power to write those regulations is normally vested in a given department or agency, not in the White House. Presidents cannot unilaterally veto a regulation that an agency is determined to issue, or repeal one an agency is determined to keep. –Andrew Rudalevige in the Washington Post

    ◆ Jonah Goldberg on what Trump’s intervention at Carrier portends (National Review Online) Goldberg reiterates his previous stance that Trump’s populism is not traditional conservative.trump-carrier-200px

    The more traction Trump got, the weaker the grip traditional conservative ideology had on quite a few famous ideologues. [Goldberg is not apologizing.] It would be weird for me to apologize for telling the truth as I see it about Trump — and then continuing to do it.

    But this Carrier decision shows that the damage will not be nearly so surgical. The rot is already setting in. … the White House is going to pick winners and losers, that it can be rolled, that industrial policy is back, that Trump cares more about seeming like a savior than sticking to clear and universal rules, and that there is now no major political party in America that rejects crony capitalism as a matter of principle. –Jonah Goldberg at NRO

    Actual CNN op-ed: “Why sex is about to get a lot less fun” under Donald Trump.

    Comment: The double-entendre is just too rich.

    ◆ Striking economic comparison:
    California [Russia + Saudi + Iran + South Africa].

    California’s economy is $2.5 trillion (International Spectator)

    ◆ Tweets of Note



    ◆ Apple gives a strong hint it is working on a self-driving car (The Verge)

    ◆ Yet another troubling dimension of the Syrian tragedy: Russian soldiers pal around with Hezbollah (Liveuamap)



    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
     for story about sex being “less fun” under Trump
    ◆ Blake Fleisher for the Hezbollah-Russian story



    ◆ Send interesting stories to
    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com



  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, October 29

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

    ◆ Very good economic news: near 3% growth in last quarter. (NY Times)

    ◆Larry Sabato, writing before the latest FBI news, sees a blowout win for Hillary Clinton, as many as 352 electoral votes. Only 80 of those are “leaning,” as distinct from “safe” and “likely.” 270 are needed to win. (Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball) 

    ◆ Comment on electoral impact of latest FBI investigation: Although the national polls have tightened recently, all have given Hillary a lead of several points. Betting markets still put her chances of winning at over 75%. Will the FBI investigation change that? Not unless some very damaging information is revealed very quickly, and perhaps not even then. It could cause problems, however, for US Senate candidates, who will be forced to say whether they still trust Hillary. Bottom line: more uncertainty but big problems only if the investigation yields important information in the next week. (Charles Lipson)

    weiner-labeled-250px-no-margins◆ Comment on whether the FBI “had to investigate”: If Anthony Weiner’s mobile device really did have emails bearing upon the Clinton investigation, I don’t see how the FBI could avoid some inquiry, even though the proximity of this news to the election creates great uncertainty and could be unfair to Hillary (if nothing is found but that information is not disclosed before Nov. 8) or unfair to voters (if something serious is found implicating Hillary and voters cannot weigh that before they vote). I have serious questions about the original investigation, especially the decision to grant broad immunities without convening a grand jury and Comey’s decision not to speed the investigation so it did not merge with the Presidential campaign. But if new materials were discovered involving Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, a very close Hillary aide, then I don’t see how the FBI could avoid looking into them. They need to do an initial review very quickly and let the public know. If the FBI had postponed a decision or disclosure and the subsequent investigation revealed something important, they would be accused, rightly, of being part of a coverup. (Charles Lipson)

    Best comment by a friend about the unfortunately-named Anthony Weiner: “The Man With the Public Privates”

    ◆ After Turkey’s failed coup, its increasingly dictatorial leader purged universities, the courts, government bureaucracies, and the military of any elements not loyal to him. But Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has found some US academics eager to come visit his conferences and buttress his regime’s credentials, despite its increasingly Islamist, anti-Democratic turn. That US academics would dance to his tune is not surprising to anyone who has watched Middle East studies departments in the US and Europe sink into a noxious political swamp in recent years. Here’s the article by A. J. Caschetta. (Daily Caller via Campus Watch, which monitors Middle East Studies)

    ◆ A tweet worth sharing: Trump’s very low approval among Mormons:


    ◆ Today in Dumb and Dumber Criminals: Man leading Arizona police on car chase stops at In-N-Burger for a bite to eat. His next meal will be in jail. (LA Times)

    ◆ Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL): fading chances to win reelection. Kirk, a moderate Republican in the deep blue state, already faced long odds in his reelection campaign against Tammy Duckworth, a war hero and sitting Congressman. Kirk has never fully recovered from a devastating stroke several years ago. The effects are not only physical; they include some cognitive decline. Now, he has committed a devastating mistake in a televised debate, attacking Duckworth–who lost her legs in combat–for her family’s Asian heritage. Kirk’s apology, however sincere, cannot undo the damage since it reveals either a malign streak or, more likely, real cognitive problems. The Chicago Tribune covers the insult and apology here. (Comment: I’ve talked to a lot of well-informed local observers. They already thought Kirk would lose. It’s even more likely now. [Charles Lipson])

    susan-lindquist2◆ A great scientist and a dear friend, Susan Lindquist, has died of cancer, age 67. A biologist at MIT, she made fundamental discoveries about protein folding, essential to understanding Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. The NYT obituary is here. May her memory be a blessing.