ZipDialog for Friday, July 14: All Trump Jr.: What we know, what we don’t know, and what matters

UPDATED

 The big story continues to be fallout from Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Amid the firestorm, it is important to remember what matters and why.

Comment and Analysis:

  • What matters is less the meeting itself and more the reasons DJT, Jr., himself says he wanted to have it after being told it involved information from the Russian government, which (he was told) wanted to help his father
  • That help was not given at the meeting.
  • If it had been given, it probably would not have been illegal
  • But it is a terrible idea to accept help from a foreign government.
  • It is even worse when the government is an adversary. And it is still worse when it is part of a multi-pronged attempt by the foreign government to interfere in the US election.
  • It completely obliterates the Trump White House’s denials for months that they had no contacts with Russian government agents during the campaign.
  • It is now consuming Washington, damaging the Trump presidency, and making it more difficult for him to move forward on health care, taxes, immigration, and other policy issues

More information will continue to dribble out, such as yesterday’s story about how Loretta Lynch’s DOJ let the lawyer. Natalia Veselnitskaya, into the country and today’s story that one of the lobbyists the lawyer brought to the meeting was an ex-Russian intel officer.

To me, the main questions now about the Trump side are whether

  1. There were more contacts?
  2. This was just chaos and confusion at the Trump campaign or part of a coherent plan and, if so, did the plan bear any fruit?
  3. The Democrats (Hillary, the DNC, their donors) had any hand in this or other dirty tricks?
  4. Manafort, the experienced guy on the Trump side, knew about the extent of the Russian involvement?
  5. This sought-after cooperation with the Russians involved the nominee himself?

Now that this line of inquiry has opened up, it is also important to know what contacts the Clinton campaign had with foreign-government agents, especially those of unfriendly governments. Those would show that this game is played by all sides and show her campaign’s intent. BUT the Clinton campaign’s activities are much less important now because she lost.

Trump is in the Oval Office so his campaign’s integrity, or lack of it, matters more.

Everyone seems to think the Russians are loving this mess. I’m sure they do–but they probably have more mixed opinions since their fingerprints are all over the room and, because of that, are blocked from all but minor, tactical cooperation with the US.  Who could doubt they are adversaries and malevolent actors?

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Question: Was this meeting a criminal offense, as Trump’s sharpest critics have charged.

Answer: Most experienced attorneys have said that the information made public so far is not a prosecutable crime. But that it hardly the end of the matter.

It is still a nasty business politically. It is either a political “crime,” or at least an attempted one, or else extraordinary incompentence. The presence of an experienced operative like Paul Manafort being part of this is inexplicable and disturbing.

It’s not the end for another reason: further information might still come to light and suggest crimes really were commited. You can be certain that the mainstream media, which loathes Trump and now sees blood in the water, will spare no resources to investigate those possibilities. Plus, there’s Mueller’s investigation. Nobody is getting away with anything here.

 

 

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 12

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate when Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, provided cover for the Hillary Clinton campaign, telling FBI director Comey to say, falsely, that their criminal investigation of Hillary’s email server was merely a “matter,” not an investigation.

It was a direct order to him, Comey testified. (Politico)

Feinstein made her statement on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Comment: Lynch’s conduct looks questionable and does deserve investigation.

Meet with Bill on the tarmac and get covered in tar yourself.

 Democratic Party: Split between establishment liberal leadership and activist-left base  (New York Times)

Democrats are facing a widening breach in their party, as liberal activists dream of transforming the health care system and impeaching President Trump, while candidates in hard-fought elections ask wary voters merely for a fresh chance at governing.

The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend. In Chicago, Senator Bernie Sanders led a revival-style meeting of his progressive devotees, while in Atlanta, Democrats made a final push to seize a traditionally Republican congressional district. –New York Times

Comment: The Republicans have faced the same internal split, in their case between establishment leaders who want to govern and Tea Party/Freedom Caucus activists who want to roll back big government.

To me, these internal splits represent the electorate’s deep distrust of insiders and their self-dealing and an erosion of the party system itself.

 Pakistani terrorism court sentences man to to death for allegedly “insulting” Mohammed on Facebook  (Fox News)

The man, Taimoor Raza, is from the minority Shiite sect and was initially charged with a lesser offense.

Raza’s verdict comes at a time when officials are increasingly pounding down on blasphemy claims across the country. At least 15 Pakistanis are said to have been arrested by the counterterrorism department under the umbrella of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Four other people were sentenced to death for the crime in 2016 alone. . . .

Scores of others in Pakistan remain on death row for alleged blasphemy, including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who remains in solitary confinement after being convicted in 2010 following a debate with two Muslim women in a Punjab village.–Fox News

Comment: The obvious point is that Pakistan is a deeply illiberal state. The less obvious point is that Europe, especially England, has admitted a lot of people from that country who have retained those beliefs, posing serious challenges to UK’s tradition of religious tolerance.

 Puerto Rico votes in favor of statehood (Associated Press)

Some boycotted the vote, which had a very low turnout.

Comment: Good luck with that, he said sardonically. The Republican Congress is not going to greenlight it.

 The University of Dallas: An impressive reading list if you want to catch up on truly great books.

The school is proudly Catholic but its reading list is largely non-sectarian. The section on theology naturally emphasizes Catholic documents, but also includes Luther. Neither he nor the Council of Trent would be pleased. And Calvin would not be happy, either.

The link to the readings is here; click on “A Selection of the Great Books.” The choices are excellent, and the initial suggestions are not an overly long list.

Comment: The University’s impressive curriculum, plus its commitment to seminar discussion, should allow students to explore serious subjects and gain a deep understanding of Western civilization and its values.

There is nothing wrong with critiquing that civilization, of course. Nothing at all. Lively criticism–and response–is an essential part of higher education.

But my sense is that far too many university students begin (and often end) their critique of everything that is wrong with America, Canada, and Europe without actually knowing anything about the traditions they have inherited, including the precious right to engage in this kind of free and open cultural self-criticism.

That right was hard won and, as we saw too often in the 20th century, easily lost, even in the heart of Europe.

 A liberal establishment power-lawyer in DC signed up to represent Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Her friends now think she’s pond scum (Washington Post story on Jamie Gorelick)

Some attack her publicly; others hide behind anonymity, proving the know what zip code they live in.

In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. –Washington Post

Comment: The issue here is not Jared and Ivanka. It is Gorelick’s Washington “friends,” who say one thing in public and another behind her back, under the cloak of anonymity, which the newspapers print freely.

Their behavior is capture in a quote attributed to Harry Truman: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

The attribution is probably incorrect.

But the sentiment is 100% correct.

The only discordant bark here is from my dog Lola, who says, for the record, “Do not bring me into this mess.”

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
Rod Dreher’s column, “Adult Seeks Classical Education”
 and to one of its commenters (Janine) for the University of Dallas story

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, May 27

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Trump’s back home and the Russian mess is still dogging him.

He’s considering major changes at the White House to cope. Washington Post says the allegations “threaten to consume his Presidency”

The White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates — including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser — and Russia.

White House officials also are trying to find ways to revive Trump’s stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.

That includes proposals for more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters, as well as changes in the pace and nature of news briefings, probably including a diminished role for embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer. –Washington Post

Comment: These allegations are why the investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller are so important–and why it needs to move quickly. If there really was collusion with the Russians, the public and Congress need to know. Same if there was no collusion since the allegations themselves are making it hard to govern.

 The most important comment in US politics this week:

Mitch McConnell’s “I don’t know how we get to 50,” votes to pass a health-care reform bill

He did express some optimism on tax reform. (Reuters via Business Insider)

Politico reports: “McConnell Steps Into ObamaCare Firing Line”

Comment: This process is going to be very painful as the insurance markets narrow and premiums go up. Those who pay them are going to be mad as hell. Those who might be harmed by reforms are going to be just as mad.

Politically, the question is whether voters will hold Democrats responsible for making the mess or Republicans for failing to fix it.

My hunch: it is much easier to be the party out of power, casting the blame for failure. Since the Republicans hold both Houses and the Presidency, they won’t have much luck pointing the finger at Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.

 American Airlines passenger tried to bite flight attendant, then ran off the plane. Now in custody.  (Washington Post)

Likely Sentence: To be dragged repeatedly up and down the aisle of a United flight while listening to an endless loop of instructions on how to buckle your seat belt.

(Btw, is there anybody left who doesn’t grasp the vexing concept of buckling a seat belt? Still, I am delighted to hear the detailed explanation on every single flight. I’m sure the flight attendants love doing it, too. Also, except for Sully Sullenberger, is there any such thing as a “water landing”? Isn’t there another term for that?)

 Uber and Lyft beat the city of Austin, will return on their terms  (The Verge)

Austin didn’t give in on the requirements that led the ride-sharing companies to pull out for a year. But the Texas legislature just passed a bill that says the state, not the city, is in charge of setting the requirements. The key state requirement is annual background checks on the drivers.

 Little Caesar’s delivered a pizza (allegedly) labeled “halal.” The recipient says it was pepperoni. So, naturally, he is suing . . . for $100 million  (USA Today)

Comment: I can see the plaintiff’s point. Pepperoni is virtually impossible to detect on pizza.

But is $100 million really enough?

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ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, March 27

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

Blame game for health care continues. WaPo reports Trump blames Freedom Caucus and far right.  One member of the caucus, Ted Poe of Texas, resigns over health care failure.

Comment: No news here, IMO. Everybody blames everybody. But the main things to notice are (a) how little of the blame is attaching to Trump and (b) how unprepared the R’s were to govern after 7 years of making this issue their top priority.

 Jared Kushner selected to lead a White House team to overhaul the federal bureaucracy  (Washington Post)

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements. –Washington Post

Comment: Kushner, age 36 and Trump’s son-in-law, is a rising power in the White House. Taking on an arteriosclerotic bureaucracy, where almost everyone has civil-service protections, will be an enormous challenge.

 After months of political difficulty, Germany’s Angela Merkel gets very good news from a state election, which her party won easily  (New York Times)

Ms. Merkel is seeking a fourth term in national elections on Sept. 24, a race that has grown more challenging in recent weeks after her center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, unanimously selected a new candidate, Martin Schulz, to lead them into the fight. –New York Times

Comment: Merkel’s long tenure as German leader has lent stability to Europe and the EU. 

 Uber suspends its self-driving car program until it figures out why one crashed in Arizona  (CNBC)

The accident occurred when the driver of a second vehicle “failed to yield” to the Uber vehicle while making a turn, said Josie Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Tempe Police Department.

“The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” she said in an email. “There were no serious injuries.” –CNBC

Comment: Sounds like the Uber vehicles did not initiate the crashes, and it is unclear to me whether better tech and programming could have avoided them. That, I assume, is what Uber wants to figure out.

 Cities and monuments switch off electricity for “Earth Hour”  (Phys.org)

Comment: And they all get to pin “I’m Virtuous” Merit Badges on themselves.

 Scientists Turn Spinach Leaves into Beating-Heart Tissue  (Science Alert)

Current bioengineering techniques, like 3-D printing, can’t build the intricate, branching network of blood vessels that makes up the heart tissue. However, a team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arkansas Sate University-Jonesboro have successfully turned to plants. –Science Alert

Comment: Popeye smiles.

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