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.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

 

Out the window

 The NYT article on Bill O’Reilly’s firing–and Fox News’ future–includes one of my favorite words: defenestration

Let’s call it our “words of the day.”

I love the very idea that we have a word for “getting thrown out the window.”

After all, it doesn’t happen too often, unless you want to start the 30 Years’ War.

By contrast, we lack a single word to describe all sorts of things we do everyday, such as walking up and down the stairs.

Of course, if you are walking up or down the stairs and someone decides to toss you out the window, then, we have a one-word description.

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.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 24

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

 Repeal and Replace goes down to the wire. Vote postponed Thursday, will happen Friday

The Washington Post reports the President gave holdouts a clear choice: “Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on”

The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled negotiator capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims. If the measure fails, it would be a defeat for Trump in his first effort to help pass major legislation and it may also jeopardize other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.

Defeat would also mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place. –Washington Post

 Democrats Plan to Filibuster Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch  (New York Times)

To break the filibuster, the Republicans need 60 votes and, according to the NYT, they don’t have the 8 Democrats they need to do that.

Comment: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is playing to his enraged, activist base. I see two main consequences, one for elections, two for the Senate.

  1. D’s from states Trump won by significant margins are made much more vulnerable. They will have to vote with the party base or the larger electorate in their states.
  2. Mitch McConnell will toss out the 60 vote filibuster rule for Supreme Court  nominees, following Harry Reid’s precedent in overturning it for all other federal appointments.
    • McConnell didn’t hold this position open–blocking hearings for Obama nominee, Merrick Garland–to let the Democrats block this appointment.
  3. The change in Senate rules, executed mostly by Reid, alters that body in fundamental ways. It now looks much more like the House, where a simple majority is enough to ram through legislation if you can whip your party in line.

 The NYT’s spin misses the main story:

Their headline: Devin Nunes Puts Credibility of House Panel He Leads in Doubt

The real headline story:  Devin Nunes says he has hard evidence the Trump Transition team was spied on; Hints at “smoking gun” connecting spying to Obama Administration (ZipDialog post)

Nancy Pelosi clearly did not like Nunes’ doing this. She called him a stooge. Presumable the 4th one.

 London’s terror killer identified as Khalid Masood  Now, the Brits want to know how he slipped through their net (Independent, UK)

Comment: Actually, he slipped through the net twice. The intel services didn’t connect his name to terrorism; they just knew him as a criminal. At this point, nobody knows whether he was connected to a wider network or not. Second, Masood slipped through an open gate and got very near Parliament itself.

That said, British and European counter-terrorism services face overwhelming tasks. Decades of anti-Western immigrants, who have failed to assimilate, have been systematically ignored by political leaders who thought–quite wrongly–that “nobody would come to Britain [or Belgium or France or ….] unless they wanted to become like us.” Nope. And simply celebrating it as “multiculturalism” turned out to be a catastrophic failure, as Theresa May has recognized.  

This problem goes far beyond beefing up domestic intelligence and policing. That’s part of the answer, but the problem is much larger.

 Former Russian lawmaker, critical of Putin, gunned down in broad daylight in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. (CNN) Denis Voronenkov joins a long line of former Putin critics. The suspected killer was himself killed by Voronenkov’s bodyguard.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Thursday’s killing a “Russian state terrorist act” on Twitter, and described Voronenkov as “one of the key witnesses of the Russian aggression against Ukraine” — referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and a subsequent war with pro-Russian rebels. –CNN

Ukraine’s president called it an “act of terrorism.”

Comment: This killing makes Pres.-elect Trump’s excuses for Putin, especially those in his 2017 Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, all the more noxious (Transcript here)

“But he’s a killer though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent.”

 Bright Future for Solar Energy in India: Hopes for a booming domestic market and exports of solar panels manufactured there (Business Insider) PM Narendra Modi wants to spend over $3 billion aiding the industry. In a country where some 300 million are not connected to the grid, the government hopes to draw 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦