ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, October 16

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ North Korean Cyber Threats: A Growing Problem

New York Times has a major article

What’s different about these hacks by a state actor? They are mostly about financial extortion.

The country’s primitive infrastructure is far less vulnerable to cyberretaliation, and North Korean hackers operate outside the country, anyway. Sanctions offer no useful response, since a raft of sanctions are already imposed. And Mr. Kim’s advisers are betting that no one will respond to a cyberattack with a military attack, for fear of a catastrophic escalation between North and South Korea. –New York Times

Comment: Since all of North Korea’s internet connections run through China and they house their “outside the country” hackers there currently, why does Beijing permit it? And why don’t we hold Beijing accountable? If they are in Tehran, then hold them accountable.

Comment #2: Some of North Korea’s actions are about security but this one is about money. For decades, the regime has used kidnapping, forgery, hacking, and all the other Tony Soprano techniques to get it. A side-benefit for them is that they acquire skills that could later be used for security-related attacks or defense.

Leading journalist in Malta who reported on government corruption killed by car bomb (Politico Europe)

Caruana Galizia, 53, had spent the last year publishing stories about allegations of corruption involving Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his closest allies. The story first came to light in the Panama Papers scandal — a leak in April 2016 of more than 11 million documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

She subsequently published stories alleging that Muscat’s wife, Michelle, received $1 million from the daughter of Azerbaijan’s president through a company set up by the same law  –Politico Europe

Comment: When you  kill journalists very publicly in Europe, you are taking a huge political risk. That means the dangers from the corruption story must be very, very damaging.

Claude Rains award for being “shocked, shocked” to hear these allegation of corruption goes to Malta’s Prime Minister.

 Clinton Foundation decides to keep Harvey Weinstein’s donations (Washington Times)

Comment: These two are made for each other.

Neither one could find truth, integrity, or honesty if they were stapled to their butts.

Too Centrist? Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) gets a primary challenge from the left (Los Angeles Times)

The challenger is Kevin de León, head of the state Senate. His campaign will focus on progressive issues and attack Feinstein as “soft on Trump.”

Comment: More on ZipDialog as the polling begins to emerge.

Bowe Bergdahl finally pleads guilty in connection with his disappearance in Afghanistan (Washington Post)

He pleads to charges of desertion and “misbehavior before the enemy.” Key facts:

  • He went AWOL after carefully planning the disappearance
  • He was held captive by Taliban for 5 years
  • Bergdahl was returned after Pres. Obama released five senior Taliban captives from Guantanamo in a controversial prisoner swap
  • Obama announced the deal in the Rose Garden, next to Bergdahl’s parents (who have consistently defended their son’s actions)
  • Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, went on Sunday talk shows after the release to say, falsely, that Bergdahl had served with “honor and distinction.”
  • Thousands of US soldiers hunted for Bergdahl after his disappearance and some were killed in the effort.

Comment: Who has to break the news to Susan Rice?

 

 

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The Clinton Foundation Decides to Keep Donations from Harvey Weinstein

◆ Clinton Foundation decides to keep Harvey’s money (Washington Times)

It’s all about helping women, don’t ya know.

Comment: The Clinton Foundation consulted its moral conscience, found it missing in action, and went with the money.

Who’s gonna administer it?

According to a flurry of texts, the frontrunner is Anthony Weiner.

To call this move “tone deaf” is an understatement

Blues-Rock selection: “Never Make Your Move Too Soon”

The song was made famous by B.B. King.

Bonnie Raitt has done a fine version on the slide guitar (link here)

If you like blues-rock, you’ll love this version by the great Joe Bonamassa. Great sound quality; live recording with a strong horn section and redoubtable backup singers. Of course, Bonamassa himself is one of the best guitarists around.

He came by his BB King connections the right way. When Joe was 12, he opened for BB.

If you want to compare it to BB’s version, done live, enjoy this one. More rhythm-and-blues than Bonamassa’s rock. Great, as BB always is.

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Your property? Yeah, right, pal. I got friends who want it

The headline: “Chicago Alderman Who Told Businessman to ‘Come Back To Me On Your Knees’ Sued for Abuse of Power (Reason’s Hit and Run blog)

Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno wanted to help a business [Double Door Music Hall] that had contributed to his campaign coffers. So he told Brian Strauss, a firefighter and property owner, to rent his building to the business or suffer the consequences. When Strauss refused to comply, Moreno made good on his threats, downzoning Strauss’s building and scuttling multiple attempts to sell the property.

Strauss is now suing, arguing that Moreno’s abuses of his aldermanic powers violate Strauss’ rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. –Reason blog

The story Reason reports is grotesque.

The key for outsiders to understand: Chicago alderman hold tremendous power to zone buildings within their ward. That power to zone translates, naturally, into campaign donations from people with zoning needs.

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Strauss’ family has owned the building housing Double Door since the 1960s. It’s in a now-popular area. According to Strauss, Double Door had violated their lease and he wanted to evict them.

That’s when Alderman Moreno, the recipient of campaign donations from Double Door, stepped in–with rage and power:

“I’m tired of hearing about the sympathy of you and your family,” the alderman reportedly told Strauss and his attorney at one meeting. “Double Door is going to be in that building, there will never be another tenant in there, there will never be another sign on that building.”

Over the coming months, Moreno—in meetings brokered and attended by staffers for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—tried to get Strauss to sell his building to Double Door for $7 million, despite its market value of nearly $10 million.

When that failed, the alderman started introducing downzoning proposals for Strauss’s property that would have made it off limits for most business uses. In June 2017, Moreno even tried to reclassify the building as a residential unit, which would prohibit practically all commercial uses.

That failed, but in September the city council did pass a downzoning ordinance, which prevents Strauss from converting his property to a general restaurant, a bar, or even, ironically, its previous use as concert venue.

In a very public, and very disturbing, encounter with Strauss, Moreno made clear his zoning changes were all about extracting concessions.

“You can come back to me on your knees, which is going to happen,” he raged. “It’s gonna be an empty building with no income for you or your family.” –Reason blog

In fact, Strauss has tried to sell but he says three sales have fallen through because of the zoning changes.

Now, he’s suing, saying that Moreno’s “extreme and outrageous” conduct amounts to a taking of his property without due process.

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CBS2 Chicago investigated. Their findings confirm Moreno’s bullying behavior, some of it caught on cell phone video.

Their headline: [CBS] 2 Investigators: Alderman Threatens To Ruin Landlord’s Business

In the video, Moreno says he’s upset over the “tragedy” of the club’s closing.

“It’s a part of life,” Strauss says.

“Right,” Moreno says. “And part of life is also that you’re not going to have a tenant in here for three years.”

The fight reportedly stems from Moreno wanting to keep the Double Door, a campaign donor, in the building. –CBS2 Chicago

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Another news investigation, this one by a former Inspector General for the city, has reached the same basic conclusions (Project Six investigations)

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Comment: If the story reported by Reason and CBS2 is true, then the alderman’s conduct was “extreme and outrageous”–and utterly true to form for Chicago city government.

Alderman have extensive control over zoning in their wards. Fellow aldermen defer to each other, enjoying the benefits of reciprocity and fearing anything that would undermine it.

Their power to zone translates into the power to raise donations from anybody with real estate interests.

It’s the circle of life in politics.

My question: Why is this only a civil case? The actions alleged ought to be investigated as possible felonies by federal attorneys. (Expecting state attorneys to do such investigations of fellow pols is crazy talk.)

Thanks to Tom Elia for this story.

Scott Stantis’ Wonderful Cartoon on the Iran Nuclear Deal

My friend, Scott Stantis, draws consistently insightful pieces for the Chicago Tribune.

A member of their editorial board, he covers the full range of issues, capturing complex issues in a few well-chosen lines.

His latest–on the Iran’s peaceful intentions–is brilliant.

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Biloxi School Board pulls “To Kill a Mockingbird”

The classic was part of the standard 8th grade lesson plan.

But, you guessed it, some people felt “uncomfortable.”

Not exactly a powerful pedagogical argument, but it more than suffices in today’s hypersensitive environment.

Kenny Holloway, vice president of the Biloxi School Board said, “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.” –Biloxi Sun Herald (link here)

Being “uncomfortable” was more than enough for the delicate sensibilities of the school board.

Comment: Hey, Kenny, you and the board made history.

In Biloxi’s long and storied history, you are the first recorded snowflakes.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 13

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Very good economic news, twice over

Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.

The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.

U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.

Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today

Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.

Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests

He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.

The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.

Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.

If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.

No improvement in the horrific California wildfires. Death toll above 30 and expected to rise (Los Angeles Times)

15 fires have burned over 200k acres so far.

Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines

Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.

Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.

Conservatives are furious at Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans for the very slow pace at which Trump appointees are approved (Daily Signal)

Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.

But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.

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