ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 20

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

 Tillerson, Mattis turn up the heat on Iran. Says it is still sponsoring terrorism throughout the Middle East  (Washington Post)

But they do not want to overturn the nuclear agreement. They see cheating at the margins but not full-frontal violations

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis slammed Iran as a destabilizing influence, particularly in Yemen, during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters.

This week, the Trump administration said it will undertake a comprehensive, 90-day review to judge whether lifting sanctions on Iran serves U.S. interests. So expect to hear more about this topic in the coming months.

In the meantime, amid all the criticism, here’s a development worth noting: Iran has met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal so far, the administration officially told Congress this week. –Washington Post

 The sheer fun of reading a slash-and-burn column. Not good as a steady diet, but, like cheese cake, great fun as an occasional treat.

Here’s Howie Carr’s take-down of Elizabeth Warren and her new book. The succession of nicknames alone is worth the read, and so is his parody of what she claims is her favorite curse word: poop. Really. That, she claims, is a f*^king curse word. (My own is “drat.”)  Howie’s column is here. (Boston Herald)

This is a rough week for Chief Spreading Bull to be starting her tour of the trustafarian gated communities and alt-left fake-news media that are her main, make that only, constituencies. The authors of the Hillary campaign post-mortem, “Shattered,” are also making the green-room rounds. Ditto Bernie Sanders and the DNC’s Dumb and Dumber — Tom Perez and Keith Ellison.

That’s a lot of poop for the non-working classes to be wading through, but nevertheless, she will persist. . . .

“Trump slammed back at me repeatedly,” she says on page 226, “hitting me over and over with his lame nicknames.”

Like, what, Liewatha? What kind of poop did he hit you with? Was it something about your, ahem, Native American heritage? Why no mention of that anymore? She’s still demanding that the president release his taxes. Maybe he should agree to — right about the time she puts out her employment applications to the two Ivy League law schools that hired her as a
“woman of color.” –Howie Carr

Comment: Cowabonga.

 Scott Walker continues policies opposing mandatory unions, this time on state construction projects (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday.

The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Comment: Wisconsin rises, Indiana Rises, Illinois sinks, California Sinks. Notice a pattern? Local voters do.

◆ Terror and the Fresno Murders: A comment 

Kori Ali Muhammad has admitted killing three people–he was caught in the act–and said he wanted to kill more “white people.”

Police has said that, although he yelled “Allahu Akbar,” his crime was based solely on race, not Islamic terror.

What he did IS terrorism, in the sense that he meant to cause terror and did.

The question is whether it is connected to the broader movement of Islamic terror, included “inspired” lone-wolf actions.

Right now, it is hard to know whether he yelled the Arabic phrase as

  • A signal of black nationalism (National of Islam style),
  • Pure hatred of America,
  • Support for global terrorism, or
  • Some other motive.

Since he has already begun talking, he might say more about his motivations. We’ll gain other information, too, as police uncover his internet search history, personal and political affiliations, and more.

As Fresno police and the FBI release their findings, we will gain a sense of how these murders are is connected to the larger Islamic terrorism issue, as well as Muhammad’s hatred of white people.

 Hillary campaign working to discover who leaked embarrassing info for new book, Shattered (NY Post’s Page Six)

We’re told the details in the book, which depicts the campaign as inept, “could only have come from someone in the inner circle.” Dennis Cheng, the finance director of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been sending out messages to determine where the leaks come from.

One source said, “The knives are out to find the people who spoke about the campaign to the authors of this book. –NY Post

Comment: In other news, the Adlai Stevenson campaign is doing a “top-to-bottom look at why we lost and what to do next.”

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Bryan Caisse 
for the Howie Carr piece on Elizabeth Warren

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, February 19

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

 Trump’s HUGE rallies: He is clearly buoyed by the crowds, using the campaign-style rally to push his agenda

Comment: I watched the enthusiastic, campaign-style rally in central Florida. Here is what struck me.

  • Pres. Trump’s effective showmanship–and his love of being in the public arena. His calling a fan out of the audience and asking him to speak was brilliant. To the cheering crowd, it was not only fun and unexpected, it said “we are all in this movement together.”
  • His ability to move easily between the teleprompter and improvisation; it was difficult to tell when he was reading, and when he was ad-libbing.  That is a skill he has mastered in several months and will serve him well since it allows him to have a more-disciplined agenda in the written text, without constraining his ability to go off-script occasionally.
  • His straightforward appeal to old-fashioned American values: love of country, desire for a strong military and safe communities, respect for law enforcement, and a thirst for economic growth that helps ordinary working people.

There was not a trace of condescension. These voters can smell the contempt of Beltway insiders and economic elites. They have known that stench for decades. They would grudgingly tolerate it if those elites were delivering the goods. They aren’t.

What Trump conveyed at the rally was a sense that he is working for people with jobs at a grocery story or auto plant, kids in public school, no retirement savings, lousy healthcare, and clothes from the sales bin at Wal-Mart. They are working hard and want better jobs, not handouts. They want safer neighborhoods, not apologies for the criminals who endanger them. And they damned sure don’t want to be told they are “privileged” by people living off their tax dollars.

Trump was particularly effective in his attack on the federal courts’ adverse ruling on his temporary immigration ban. Instead of the reckless, personal attacks he used last week, he was substantive. He actually read the law to the cheering crowd. Its plain language, he said, gives the President the power to do what he did in the Executive Order. Then he landed the knockout punch. Because the law is so clearly on his side, he said, the judges didn’t cite any of its language in ruling against him. That is a substantive argument. It says these courts have arrogated to themselves authority over national-security policy that the law doesnot grant them. That is a far better argument than personal attacks, which he continued on the media.

At these rallies, Trump renewed his campaign promises to his voters, and they renewed their support of his presidency.

What they have seen in the first weeks has been rocky–did they really buy his lines that his administration is a “smooth-running machine?–but they have been reassured by one crucial thing the media considers a flaw. Trump is showing his base that he has not been sucked into the Washington world. He remains the guy they voted for.

Now, he has to deliver on those promises.

 CNN is not happy being called “fake news.” They show it with their headline on the rally: “Trump gets what he wants in Florida: Campaign-level adulation”  

 Two important deaths:

  • “Roe” of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, “Roe v. Wade,”
  • “The blind sheik” who waged terror inside the US

 Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey. She died of heart failure, aged 69. (New York Times)  In 1970, she a young, unmarried mother, pregnant with a third child she did not want. 

Plucked from obscurity in 1970 by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young Dallas lawyers who wanted to challenge Texas laws that prohibited abortions except to save a mother’s life, Ms. McCorvey, five months pregnant with her third child, signed an affidavit she claimed she did not read. She just wanted a quick abortion and had no inkling that the case would become a cause célèbre.

She had little contact with her lawyers, never went to court or was asked to testify, and was uninvolved in proceedings that took three years to reach the Supreme Court.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the court ruled 7-2 in Roe v. Wade (Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney, was the defendant in the class-action suit) that privacy rights under the due process and equal rights clauses of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion in a pregnancy’s first trimester “free of interference by the state,” in the words of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the opinion. –New York Times

Her daughter, born in 1970, was given up for adoption, as her second child had been.

Later in life, Ms. McCorvey became an Evangelical Christian and then a Roman Catholic and a strong foe of abortion.

 The blind sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, plotted the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed 6, injured over 1,000, and inspired the 9/11 attacks. Abdel-Rahman died of natural causes, aged 78 (CNN) Before being sentenced, he told the judge (in Arabic), “This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam.”

Comment: It was, of course, exactly the opposite.

 NATO: VP Pence confirms what Sec. of Defense Mattis said the day before: the US remains committed to NATO  (Boston Globe)

Comment: Meanwhile, at Trump’s campaign rally in Florida, the President demanded that freeloading nations pay their fair share.  Some would call these mixed messages; others would say they are precisely the mix the US needs to convince European allies to pay up while still deterring Russia.

 With so more controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos on college campuses, it is wonderful to have a thoughtful essay on “Why Milo Scares Students and Faculty Even More” by Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown.  (Personal note: I know and respect Prof. Brown, who teaches medieval Christian history at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She has a special focus on medieval ideas about the Virgin Mary.)

The issues that Milo talks about are usually considered political, but in fact have to do with people’s deepest convictions: the proper relations between women and men, the definition of community, the role of beauty, access to truth. Milo professes himself a Catholic and wears a pair of gold crosses around his neck. He speaks about the importance of Christianity for the values of Western civilization. As he put it in one interview: “[Western civilization] has created a religion in which love and self-sacrifice and giving are the highest possible virtues… That’s a good thing… But when you remove discipline and sacrifice from religion you get a cult.”

None of these issues, most especially the civilizational roots of culture and virtue in religious faith, are typically addressed in modern college education in America. Rather, they are, for the most part, purposefully avoided. Judging from my own experience of over 30 years in the academy, it is considered a terrible breach of etiquette, horribly rude even, to mention your religious faith if you are a Christian, never mind suggest that it in any way affects your work as a scholar. This relic of the self-censoring of the late 19th century is now so deeply embedded in American academic culture that most people are not even conscious of it. The real problem, however, is that while discussion of Christian theology may no longer be at the center of university education, religion still is—we just don’t call it that anymore. –Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown 

 

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, February 16

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

 Trump’s Budget Chief finally Approved; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has been a Tea Party favorite  (Washington Post)

Comment: His position is a hot seat and will be difficult for him to manage politically. The difficulty, fundamentally, is that Trump’s spending and tax-cutting plans and his refusal to tackle entitlements are very different from the Tea Party’s and the House Freedom Caucus. Mulvaney will not only have to reconcile those vast differences, he will have to convince some of his former colleagues in the House–or be read out of their church.

 Alexander Acosta, nominated as Labor Sec. He is an experienced lawyer, who served in several positions in GW Bush administration, including National Labor Relations Board, and is chairman of a Hispanic community bank in Florida (Fox)

Comment: Presumably better vetted than Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his nomination, and should be a straightforward approval. That won’t stop Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats from slow-walking it. Vetting is fine. Slow walking is just gamesmanship.

 US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson meets his Russian counterpart. So far, no real news about what has become an increasingly conflictual relationship (New York Times)

 US Sec. of Defense reassures NATO that it will not cozy up to Russia No closer military ties between US-Russia, Mattis says  (New York Times)

 Senate to grill Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel  (CNN)

Comment: David Friedman has supported settlements so he is reviled by the left. The Democrats will focus on Trump’s “abandonment of the two-state solution.” But that’s misleading. What Trump really did was say, correctly, the parties themselves have to strike a mutually-acceptable deal. We (the US) won’t constrain that. Smart, as a negotiating tactic.

Of course, there will be no agreement because

  • The Palestinians do not have stable governance
  • One of their territories is rules by corrupt terrorists, the other by dead-ender terrorists, part of a larger Muslim Brotherhood movement, bent on overthrowing regimes across the Arab-Muslim world; and
  • The Palestinian people have not even begun to discuss the nature of the compromises that would be essential in a peace treaty. The Israelis did discuss those issues and were ready for compromise during the Clinton Administration.

They have now given up on that possibility and are reluctantly moving forward to preserve their security without much cooperation from the Palestinians.

 

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, February 15

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

 Today’s ZipDialog Roundup is entirely devoted to the serious ramifications of the Michael Flynn dismissal

 There are two overriding issues:

  1. Who will replace Flynn as National Security Adviser?
  2. Who leaked highly-classified signals intelligence on Flynn to the Washington Post? (Who is behind it and why?)

 Possible successors: David Petraeus and two others top the rumors  (USA Today) The top name among insiders is Robert Harward, a former deputy to Sec. of Defense Mattis. Another is retired general and former deputy to Flynn, Keith Kellogg. He is acting NSC Adviser now and has close ties to Trump. Then there is the truly formidable military strategist, David Petraeus.

Comment on Petraeus: Professionals consider David Petraeus the most successful battlefield general since World War II.  He achieved that not only by his field command but by completely revamping US military doctrine to meet the challenges of asymmetric warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. He is a serious strategist who knows all the top players in Washington and around the world.

Gen. Petraeus comes with two problems, though. One is obvious. One is not. The obvious one is his criminal record, a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified intelligence. That should not stop him from being appointed since he is the most qualified candidate, by far, and the job does not require Senate confirmation. Still, appointing him after his legal troubles would give the Democrats another target to shoot at and allow them to say that Republicans were being hypocritical when the criticized Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified documents. The Trump administration might want to avoid that incoming fire.

What could easily sink Petraeus, though, is not his weakness but his strength: he can and will stand up to the President (a crucial job in any White House) and stand up to the Secretary of Defense, intelligence officials, Sec. of State, Steve Bannon, and anybody else with turf to protect.

If you think these power players want another big-time player down the hall from the President, you must be returning from a Grateful Dead concert with high-powered brownies.  Do you think, just maybe, the folks at the Pentagon would prefer the boss’s old deputy? Yes, indeed.

A final point about the NSC adviser’s job: There are really two ways to serve as NSC adviser: Traffic Cop or Strategist. (The third, played by Ben Rhodes as Obama’s No. 2 at NSC, is Toady, constantly saying, “Yes, Mr. President, that is the most brilliant idea I’ve ever heard. Please tell me more.” In his case, I used the term No. 2 advisedly.) Kellogg and Harward would probably serve as traffic cop, assembling the recommendations from the principals, such as Mattis and Tillerson, and presenting them fairly to the president for a decision. Petraeus would play more the strategist’s role, as did Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. (That might give the administration one strategist too many since Mattis himself is a very thoughtful, experienced one.)

 Who leaked this highly-classified information and Why? Those are the most important unknowns in this mess so far.

Mike Flynn’s phone call to Russia’s Ambassador to the US, Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, was captured by US signals intelligence, presumably the FBI since it was on US soil. Information about such intercepts is highly classified. So, how come we know so much about this private phone call? That is the single most important question in this episode. Someone saw this secret information and leaked it to the Washington Post, just as the FBI leaked confidential information about the Hillary Clinton investigation.

That “someone” could be in the intel agencies, or it could be an Obama holdover at Justice or State. It could be someone who desperately wants to kill the Trump administration in the crib. Or it could be someone who wants to change US policy toward Russia and thought Flynn was far too close to the Kremlin. Or it could be someone with a more limited goal, simply getting rid of Flynn, an experienced (but controversial) military-intelligence officer who vocally criticized US intelligence analysis for being politicized under Obama. It is no secret the Obama people had the long knives out for him. I suspect it is a cabal of Obama loyalists collaborating with unhappy careerists in the intel agencies and DOJ.

The Flynn leaks did not stop with one still-anonymous disclosure of the phone call. Multiple people have confirmed the leaked information. All of them must have had high-level security clearances and access to this information.

 My hunch is this:

The Flynn phone came while the Obama administration was still in office. Transcripts of the call circulated at the time to national security officials in the Obama White House, the Department of Justice, and probably John Kerry’s State Department. We know that senior DOJ officials were involved because one of them, an Obama holdover, told Trump aides about it after he became president. That DOJ official was Sally Yates, the same person who refused to defend Trump’s travel ban and was fired. She was the one who “warned” the Trump White House that Flynn could blackmailed by the Russians, according to reports.

⇒ If you want to know how costly it is to be a newcomer in Washington, look no further than the Trump newcomers asking Sally Yates to stay until Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General. She was already known to be a Trump adversary; keeping her on at DOJ was a serious error, one that no experienced pol would make. If you want to know what the Democrats accomplished by holding up Sessions confirmation, again, look at Ms. Yates. The Democrats actually retained political control over all agencies without a confirmed Trump nominee. Even when the Trump people arrive, they will find Obama loyalists and Trump adversaries in place throughout their bureaucracies. Expect trouble from them for years to come.

Returning to the Flynn phone intercept . . . here is what Eli Lake reports at Bloomberg:

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.  –Eli Lake at Bloomberg

These leaks are serious felonies and deeply damaging to US security. They should be rooted out and people should be indicted. So should any careerists who leaked the content of Pres. Trump’s phone calls to other countries’ leaders.  They may not like the President. They may not like Mike Flynn. It doesn’t matter. Their leaks are damaging our country for their own political purposes.

 To learn more about these issues (links for each article): 

Multiple sources closely involved in the situation pointed to a larger, more secretive campaign aimed at discrediting Flynn and undermining the Trump White House.

“It’s undeniable that the campaign to discredit Flynn was well underway before Inauguration Day, with a very troublesome and politicized series of leaks designed to undermine him,” said one veteran national security adviser with close ties to the White House team. “This pattern reminds me of the lead up to the Iran deal, and probably features the same cast of characters.” –Washington Free Beacon

Comment: These shady dealings–and the permanent bureaucracies’ obvious loathing of Trump–is feeding paranoia about a “deep state” that governs America instead of its elected officials. Feeding that paranoia and, worse, proving it true, could be the deepest damage of all.

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
 for the Free Beacon story on Obama officials’ role in this takedown

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, February 14, Valentine’s Day

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

 What a Mess: Mike Flynn, National Security Adviser, “resigns”  Obviously, he was forced out. My hunch is that the problem was not talking with the Russians, despite the legal problems that raised and the DOJ’s suggestion, leaked to the WaPo, that it could leave Flynn open to blackmail. Nope, the real problem was lying about it to VP Mike Pence, who (in good faith) repeated the lie. Mike Flynn just learned you cannot do that and survive in this White House.

Now, the Trump White House must right this ship quickly because there is considerable pressure from America’s adversaries and hard policy choices to make–and make soon.

Flynn’s interim replacement is his number two, Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Jr. (age 72). It is unclear if Trump considers him a possible long-term replacement.

Comment: My hunch is that Trump will turn to Mattis, Coats, and Corker, all experienced Washington hands, for advice on this choice. All are reliable, experienced hands in foreign policy who know the potential candidates and the policy issues they will face. James Mattis is Sec. of Defense; Dan Coats, a former Senator, is Director of National Intelligence, and Bob Corker is current head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Normally the Sec. of State would be involved, but Rex Tillerson is new to Washington and not yet familiar with all the candidates. Mattis, Coats, and Corker not only know the players, they know how the National Security Council should run. Trump would also be wise to turn to former Sec. of Defense Bob Gates and former Sec. of State (and NSC Adviser) Condi Rice for guidance.

The first name they will have to decide on is Gen. David Petraeus, the most effective military leader in America’s unconventional wars and then head of the CIA.  The question is whether his enormous expertise offsets his baggage from mishandling of classified documents.  Note that the National Security Adviser does not require Senate approval.

Second CommentThe talking heads will all say, “This is a huge mess this is for the new Trump Administration.” That’s right, and I have already said so myself. But the mess is only half the story. Trump has also shown that he is willing to cut his losses and make hard choices clearly, decisively, and quickly. He did it during the campaign, when he fired two successive campaign leaders who were falling short and finally got the team he wanted. He didn’t let this issue linger, either. That sends a strong message to all his senior appointments: “I hold you accountable. Produce results at the standards I expect or I will fire you.”

 One of the main security challenges for any administration is cyber. David Benson, an expert in the subject, gives a very positive review to Martin Libicki’s new book, Cyberspace in Peace and War  

Cyberspace in Peace and War is a very good book. While the disordered state of cyber-strategy makes it impossible to write the “final” work on the subject, Libicki imposes order upon an incredibly wide ranging topic. –David Benson, writing at “The Bridge”

The book treats both technical and strategic issues, but, as Benson makes clear, its focus is on international strategy.

 Dutch professor Ruud Koopmans gives the EU a deeply troubling report on Muslim views  (Daily Mail)

Koopmans said that of the 1 billion adult Muslims in the world, ‘half of them are attached to an arch-conservative Islam which places little worth on the rights of women, homosexuals, and people of other faiths’. –Ruud Koopmans in the Daily Mail

Koopmans estimates that at least 50 million are “willing to sanction violence” and thinks that is likely an underestimate.

In several Islamic countries, 14 per cent of local Muslims think suicide attacks against innocents are ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justified to defend Islam, said Koopmans, citing a study by the US-based Pew Research Center. –Daily Mail

Koopmans, from the Netherlands, leads a major university center for migration research in Berlin.

Comment: Western governments have focused, understandably, on the problem of violent immigrants, but Koopmans is highlighting a second grave problem: large numbers of Muslims who seek to live in the West but reject its basic norms and values. The same hostile views are often held by the second and third generation of these migrants.

 True: America’s top fortune cookie writer has “writer’s block” and is stepping down after three decades (Fox News)

For 30 years, Donald Lau has been the “Chief Fortune Writer” at Wonton Foods, a manufacturer that touts itself to be one of the world’s largest producers of fortune cookies.

But now,Lau is leaving his position following a long bout of writer’s block.

According to Good Food, 4.5 million cookies are produced by Wonton Foods each day. –Fox News

Comment: No one saw it coming.

 After senseless delaying tactics by Senate Democrats, the body finally approves Steven Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary  (New York Times)

Comment: Yeah, like the country actually needs a Treasury Secretary.

I am not arguing the merits of Mnuchin’s candidacy here. I am saying that once the Democrats had produced no information to sink the nomination and it was clear he would win Senate confirmation, dragging it out for weeks with delaying tactics is harmful to the country.  Blame Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren.

 

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 4

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

 Congressional Black Caucus very upset at “Latino” who wants to join. 

Actually, he is a Dominican of African descent.  (Politico)

[Representative Adriano] Espaillat’s district, while majority Latino, has a sizable African-American population and includes Harlem, long the intellectual and cultural center for black America.

“See that complicates matters. Even though our agendas are typically parallel, occasionally they are not. So it may be problematic if someone wants to belong to two ethnic caucuses,” said. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a former chairman of the CBC. “If he’s considered an African-American then he’s certainly welcome in the caucus. But I can’t speak for the caucus.” –Politico

Comment: “Oh what a tangled web we weave. When first we organize as identity-politics cheerleaders.” Why? Because it is unclear how to determine identity and who gets to determine it. As the CBC dispute illustrates, the left is now in the odd position of asserting that “male” and “female” are subjective, fluid categories, to be determined by each individual and accommodated by others, but that somehow “race” is not a largely-subjective category to be determined by each individual.

As far as I’m concerned, the CBC should be able to determine their own rules for membership. But it is interesting to watch their hypocrisy in dealing with these identity issues.

◆ Post of the Day: “Some Typos Are Worse Than Others,” says Judge Rakoff

Comment:  “I’m so embarrassed,” said the editor. “This went out prematurely.”

 New Defense Secretary, Mattis, faces big problems in Europe (Russia, NATO), the Middle East (Iran, ISIS, other terrorism), and Asia-Pacific (China). He goes to Asia first  CNN reports key American allies, Japan and South Korea, are reassured by the meeting but still anxious about China’s aggressive actions.

Predictably, China pushes back (AP)

Comment: The global problems are so vexing and manifold that the new Administration would be well advised to move very carefully in establishing priorities and clear strategies. We have limited resources. 

Mattis did make one clear, strong statement. In a modulated tone, he said that any use of North Korean nuclear weapons would lead to an “overwhelming” US response. The US also committed itself to installing high-tech missile defense in South Korea.

 Islamist attacks the Louvre and its tourists with machete. (NYT) Good lord, why? Still grumpy over Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours?

Updated reports from France24 are here, covering not only the Louvre attack but also French raids on Islamists in its aftermath. 

 Another Putin opponent poisoned and near death (Daily Beast)

Comment: This thuggish regime will face increasing trouble as its economy continues to decline and its population continues to age. Yes, they are playing a weak handle well internationally, but it is hard to see how the regime gains much tangibly from its costly international engagements.

 Prominent German weekly, Der Spiegel, has cover of Pres. Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty  (Daily Mail)

An Irish publication, The Village, features a cover with a rifle sight centered on Trump’s head.

Comment: Seeing this cover, a sense of revulsion should run through all decent people. You don’t have to like Trump to understand that democratic governance cannot tolerate casual discussion of assassination as a political strategy. 

 Immediately after Trump imposes sanctions on Iran, the Mullahs schedule weekend military exercises to test its missile and radar systems and cyber warfare capabilities  (Reuters)

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Trump Reorganizes His National Security Council . . . Badly

This was the lead item in ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, but it has received so much attention that I want to post it separately, with some additional commentary. –Charles Lipson

◆ Trump reorganizes membership on his National Security Council, removing Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, adding political adviser Steve Bannon (Wall Street Journal)

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Comment: THIS IS NUTS.

Any serious national security decisions require direct input from the leaders of the military and intelligence communities. Besides their judgment, the president needs their efforts to implement decisions taken by the NSC and to coordinate their actions with other agencies. Removing them from the “NSC principals committee” is truly alarming.

So is the inclusion of Bannon. Although the president needs political advice before making national security decisions, his decision to include his top political adviser on the NSC itself is a major error and another troubling sign for how foreign policy will be made.

Where do Rex Tillerson (State) and James Mattis (Defense) stand on this?

What does Dan Coats, the incoming DNI, think about this marginalization before he takes office?

They have to wonder if Trump, Bannon, and NSC Adviser Michael Flynn plan to run foreign policy out of the White House, with Flynn trying to dominate the Cabinet secretaries.

I had always anticipated the first big national-security fight within the Trump team would pit Mattis and Tillerson against Flynn. That may be shaping up earlier than I had anticipated, with Bannon on Flynn’s side.

(Charles Lipson commentary)   

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, January 26

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

 RIP MTM  Love the quote from James L. Brooks, who co-produced the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

She was brilliant. Nobody Ever Found the Thing She Couldn’t Do. –James L. Brooks in the Hollywood Reporter

The New York Times obituary is here, with the headline that Moore “Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV.

 Sanctuary Cities to Trump: Drop Dead, Keep Sending Money  The NBC story doesn’t have that tone, but that’s the message. Trump’s response is predictably blunt. (Here)

Two Comments: First, Trump made a very smart move on this issue early. Until then, the narrative had been “be empathetic with the striving, yearning immigrants.” Trump reversed it: “Be empathetic with the victims of violent illegal immigrants.” He was predictably hyperbolic, of course, and the narrative does not easily generalize to non-violent illegal immigrants, but it was a shrewd political reimagining of the issue.

Second, a fight with Trump over immigration is one many sanctuary-city mayors and sheriffs relish . . . until the money pinches. Chicago will be a particularly hard fight because Mayor Rahm Emanuel depends on support from Hispanic voters to offset his unpopularity among African-Americans. If he backs down without a smack-down, he’ll lose a key support group.

 Quote of the Day  When asked what he thinks about General Mattis when he was being considered for Secretary of Defense, Rob O’Neill (the man who killed Bin Laden) said:

General Mattis has a bear rug in his home, but the bear’s not dead. It’s just afraid to move.

 Trump blocks Obama/Kerry transfer of $221 million to Palestinian Authority

The Trump administration has informed the Palestinian Authority that it is freezing the transfer of $221 million which was quietly authorized by the Obama administration in its final hours on January 20, a senior Palestinian source has told The Times of Israel.

US officials conveyed to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Tuesday that the funds were not expected to be handed over in the immediate future, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. –AP and Times of Israel

 AP: “Trump intends to announce his Supreme Court pick on Feb. 2”

Comment: If the nominee sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

 Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): Refusing Refugee Admissions is Equivalent to Slavery  (Daily Caller) Trump has issued a temporary stay on visas from several countries with major terror problems, all predominantly Muslim.

Nihad Awad, CAIR’s national executive director, called the proposed border wall a “multi-billion dollar monument to racism.” Awad went on to say that President Trump’s proposal has nothing to do with national security and is strictly an “Islamophobic” proposal. –Daily Caller

Comment: An extreme left-wing rabbi, involved in many anti-Israeli causes, appeared at the same news conference and said barring refugees from Syria and Somalia is an “affront to God.”

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Sam Stubbs
 for the great quote about Gen. Mattis
◆ Ed Lasky for US funding for Palestinians; the story on that yesterday came thanks to Marcia Sukenik Weiss

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, January 21

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

◆ Kudos to Hillary Clinton for attending the inauguration  No visitor’s appearance was more important than that of the defeated candidate. That is always true. Drudge mocked Bill and Hillary as “glum and glummer.” That’s true, but it misses the larger point. They showed up. They were not part of Rep. John Lewis’ boycott of a president who, he thinks, was not legitimately elected. They deserve praise. For Hillary, this must have been the hardest, most painful appearance of her political life. She deserves the standing-ovation Pres. Trump asked the luncheon at the Capitol to give her and the former president.

 Churchill bust back in Oval Office  (CNN)

Comment: Good. It’s a small symbolic step, but it says who our friends are.

 Trump has only two confirmed members of his cabinet; Obama had seven  (CNN)

The seven includes one holdover from the Bush administration, Sec. of Defense Gates.

 CIA chief confirmation delayed amid partisan quarrels (McClatchy)

Comment: The Democrats have been slowing the confirmation process as a political strategy. Politically, it is a mistake. Nationally, it is a danger since key security officials such as the head of CIA and the Director of National Intelligence are not in office. (Mattis and Kelly are the only confirmed members of the Cabinet. Flynn does not need confirmation.)

As soon as Cabinet members have turned in all their paperwork and Senators have had several days to review it, they should be voted up or down so the Executive Branch can function with departmental leadership.

Comment: Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to even shake hands with Betsy DeVos after her hearing was shameful and petty. Vote against her, if you wish, but show some common courtesy.

 China has fewer tools to sustain economic growth, as monetary easing and strong property market “peter out” (Wall Street Journal)

 Net Neutrality, passed by Obama’s FCC, could be reversed  Trump will nominate current FCC commissioner Ajit Pai to head the agency. He opposes many Obama-era policies, including “net neutrality.” (Business Insider)

 

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 15

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

 Ringling Brothers–the greatest circus–to close this summer. They’ve been in business for 146 years, but the entertainment world has changed dramatically and their ticket sales have plummeted, according to the AP story (here).

Comment: My own favorite memory of this circus is of 1955, the last year they toured in tents. My Dad told me, this is the greatest circus and we are going to see it the way circuses have always been presented, in a big tent. In November, they came to Clarksdale (about 30 miles from my home in Marks), and we went there as a family. I still remember how cold it was. But most of all, I remember how dazzling.

 Trump team divided over how best to confront China  Reuters notes that Rex Tillerson, nominee for Sec. of State, “threw out an explosive challenge to Beijing . . . by calling for it [to] be denied access to artificial islands it is building” in the South China Sea. (Story here.) Following that, one Trump insider said privately that Tillerson was not suggesting a potential blockade; another one pushed back in the other direction. James Mattis, nominee for Sec. of Defense, did not endorse Tillerson’s view but did say China was challenging the existing world order.

 WaPo headline: “Trump-Lewis feud could be harbinger of new round of hyper-partisanship”  The story is here.

Comment: Gee, ya think?

◆ Related story: Trump Transition Gets Dismal Approval Ratings  Upside-down numbers, reports the New York Post, which says they are the worst in history.

 All Children Get First Prize  The “social media coordinator” for a Maryland school (who even knew there was such a thing?) saw a student’s tweet asking that the district close its schools “tammarow.”

The coordinator gave a gentle response with a smiley face: “But then how would you learn how to spell ‘tomorrow?’ :)”

It was retweeted.  So, the school fired her.

The story is here. (Fox News)

Comment: Let’s all sing along, “Tammarow, Tammaro, I love ya, Tammarow; You’re always a day away!”

Best news of the Day: New animated series coming with Louis C.K. and Albert Brooks. The story is here.

People today may not know how brilliant Albert Brooks is. Hysterical.  Here is Albert Brooks utterly demolishing every showbiz convention about ventriloquism.

 

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