ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 26

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

 The Supreme Court hands down its final ruling of the year today, including one on Trump’s travel ban.

Even more important, we’ll soon learn if Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire, as rumored.

If he does, Trump will appoint another strong conservative, much like Neil Gorsuch (but perhaps more outspoken).

Doing so will have two powerful effects.

  1. It will solidify the Court’s conservative majority. (Now, it’s 4-4, with Kennedy as the swing vote.)
  2. It will guarantee Trump’s standing with nearly all conservatives.
    • Almost nothing matters more to them. They loved the Gorsuch appointment–and they dreaded Hillary’s choices.

 Pro-Trump group warns Republican Senators to back health care or they will be targeted (Politico)

The Senate vote is expected to be very close and could come soon. So, there’s back-room negotiating over terms and public pressure on holdouts.

One group closely aligned with the White House, “America First Policies,” is launching a $1 million attack on Nevada’s Dean Heller (R).

Their ad says, “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

Comment: The ads might hurt a marginal senator, but it’s a painfully dumb strategy. Why? Because the threat only works against vulnerable incumbent Senators and, if it works against them, their seats will be won by Democrats, possibly flipping the Senate.

In the House, you can run primaries against incumbents in deep Red or Blue districts and still keep the seat. So those threats are credible.

This threat is either incredible or incredibly dumb. 

 Stay classy, New York: Restaurant patrons boo and shout at US ambassador Nikki Haley and her son 

Comment: Shameful. My contempt for these cretins is boundless. I would say exactly the same thing if they had booed Obama’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power.

 The “sketchy firm” behind the dubious (and often false) dossier on then-candidate Trump dossier is stalling investigators  (NY Post)

A secretive Washington firm that commissioned the dubious intelligence dossier on Donald Trump is stonewalling congressional investigators trying to learn more about its connections to the Democratic Party.

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.

Congressional sources say [Fusion GPS] is actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda.

Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump.–NY Post

Comment: NONE of the mainstream media has carried this story. None. Contradicts the narrative.

 India’s Leader, Modi, begins low-key visit to Washington, including meeting with Pres. Trump (Washington Post)

The relationship has been bumpy recently, and the Trump administration has not articulated a South Asia policy.

Comment: The Post article saw potential minefields. I’m more optimistic, in part because the US needs India in dealing with China’s military expansion.

 Fascinating article on “Sanctimony Cities” in the Claremont Review of Books

The article by Christopher Caldwell is filled with interesting interpretations, accompanied by fascinating factoids.

The most interesting to me was about the largest city in Ohio. Cleveland? No. Cincy? No. Columbus is bigger than both combined. There are lots of jobs there collecting and dispensing Ohio’s tax money, educating its students, and running hospitals.

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Clarice Feldman
 for the article on Sanctimony Cities

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 3

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

 A deeply reflective Tom Perez, new head of the Democratic National Committee, considers what his party did wrong in 2016 and concludes that Donald Trump did not win the election. Really. (Story and video here.)

In related news: Mr. Perez also thinks the Falcons won the Super Bowl. Keep up the good work, Tom!

 Pres. Trump says the US will deal with North Korean threat, with or without China(Fox News)

The Guardian reports: Trump says US will act alone on North Korea if China fails to help.

Later this week, Trump meets China’s leader, Xi Jinping, this week at Mar-a-Lago. 

Comment: The US is likely to tell China that “we intend to bring down this regime unless you do.” My guess is that the US will begin sanctioning Chinese banks and businesses that interact with North Korea, unless China stops them first. This issue is extremely serious. 

 Ambassador Nikki Haley wins high praise for her strong voice at the United Nations. The Washington Post uses this headline: “fierce but unnuanced” 

Comment: Perhaps the WaPo has been pleased with the latest eight years of nuance. They will get back to us on what that accomplished.

 Looking Down from Manhattan’s Cultural Heights: Mike Pence roundly denounced for his social rule of not dining alone with women in Washington. The New Yorker runs the headline: “Mike Pence’s Marriage and the Beliefs That Keep Women from Power.

Comment: The cognoscenti fell off their couches laughing at Mr. and Mrs. Pence and their Midwestern, religious values. There is zero evidence that Pence discriminates, and women executives who have worked with him immediately wrote articles praising him.

For me, the only real laugh came from this item in The Onion. 

 Montana Democrat Jon Tester announces he will stick with Chuck Schumer and vote against Gorsuch for Supreme Court. (Jon Tester’s Twitter account)

According to a Montana paper, Tester has also said he would support the Democrats’ filibuster (Missoulan)

Comment: The decision is a perplexing one since Trump won Montana by 20 points. Perhaps Tester fears a primary opponent on his left or is appealing for national donors. Still, an odd decision and one that makes it more likely the Republicans will use the “nuclear option” and require a simple-majority vote on Gorsuch

 

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Amb. Nikki Haley at UN: Palestinians, stop your incitement so we can move forward

US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley: Palestinians Must Stop Incitement, Engage in Direct Peace Talks With Israel (Algemeiner)

The Palestinian Authority must “stop its incitement to violence” and engage with Israel in “direct peace negotiations, rather than looking to the UN,” a top American diplomatic official said on Tuesday.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made the statement after meeting with her Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Mansour — an encounter she described as “productive.”

“The US is committed to supporting a true peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” she said.

Last month, Haley received warm praise from the pro-Israel community in both the US and abroad after taking the UN Security Council to task for its double standards when it comes to its treatment of the Jewish state. –Algemeiner

What does this incitement look like? The examples are too numerous to cite, but here’s a recent one.

Palestine Liberation Organization names children’s camp for terrorist bomber who killed 37, including a dozen children  (Palestinian Media Watch)

Terrorist bomber families are also compensated by the Palestinian Authority, which money that comes indirectly from Western donor states.

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . International Focus today on Friday, February 3

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

 Nikki Haley, new US ambassador to United Nations: blunt talk to Russia over Ukraine (CNN)

The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine. –Amb. Nikki Haley

Comment: There is zero chance that the Putin regime will pull out of Crimea and slim-to-none that any successor regime would.

Here’s my interpretation: The sanctions stay until Putin gives up something significant to Trump. My assumption here is that Trump is transactional and ready to bargain, but he will never give up anything without full compensation. Same for Tillerson. Big difference from Obama and Kerry. 

 “Decline, Not Collapse: The Bleak Prospects for Russia’s Economy” Important new paper from the Carnegie Foundation’s Moscow Center

Russia faces bleak economic prospects for the next few years. It may be a case of managed decline in which the government appeases social and political demands by tapping the big reserves it accumulated during the boom years with oil and gas exports. But there is also a smaller possibility of a more serious economic breakdown or collapse. –Andrey Movchan at Carnegie’s Moscow Center

 UK Prime Minister Theresa May strongly supports NATO. Now, she will press Europeans to contribute more (BBC)

Britain’s strategic ambition to act as a bridge between Europe and the United States long predates Brexit, but it has now become a central component of the government’s hopes of keeping and building influence in the world.

But pressing for higher defence spending looks like a tough ask.

And her hopes of becoming a bridge – or honest broker – between the EU and the US won’t be easily fulfilled either. –BBC

 Comment: This bridge needs building, but it cannot be built from the middle pier. It must have a strong anchor in Washington and buy-in, literally, from European nations that have been paying too little.

 Wall Street Journal reports that Trump Administration will sanction 25 Iranian entities for its missile test and provocations by regional proxies

Comment: Washington’s simple message to Iran’s mullahs: “Under New Management”


The Free Market. It’s like Uber, But for Everything.” –Robert Tracinski


 Sarah Silverman goes off the rails, calls for a military coup. She does it on Twitter. Perfect for a bird-brain idea

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 31

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

 United Nations will hold urgent meeting, requested by US, to deal with Iran’s test of medium-range missile (AP)

Iran is the subject of a United Nations Security Council resolution prohibiting tests of ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear warhead. As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.N. ban was prolonged by eight years, although Iran has flaunted the restriction. …

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned Iran for the missile test.

“No longer will Iran be given a pass for its repeated ballistic missile violations, continued support of terrorism, human rights abuses and other hostile activities that threaten international peace and security,” Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a written statement.

Comment: During the campaign, Trump promised to get tough on Iran and, at the very least, make them adhere to the nuclear agreement they signed. This will be his first test of that promise, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s debut in her new post. They face two problems. First, the agreement is multilateral and the other parties to it want to do business with Iran, not force them to live up to the agreement. Second, Pres. Obama and John Kerry negotiated a deal that front-loaded Iran’s benefits, significantly undercutting US leverage going forward. Obama and Kerry, master negotiators and strategists, paid full sticker price plus a heft tip for that “little beauty of a used car.”

Still, I expect Trump and his national security team to pursue a hard line and signal America’s nervous allies in the region that Obama is well and truly gone.

 Facebook is pulling every string to get back into China . . . and failing (Wall Street Journal)

Since regulators blocked the service in 2009, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired well-connected executives, developed censorship tools and taken a ‘smog jog’ in Beijing—but the company has made no visible headway.

And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own.  –WSJ

Comment: Remember when China’s leader, Xi, told the World Economic Forum at Davos that he was a free-trading globalist?

That wasn’t spin. It was straight-out deceit.

 Good tech news: Honda, GM partner to develop next-generation hydrogen fuel cells for cars  The companies will also partner in building fueling stations. Production will begin in three years and could have military, aerospace, and residential uses, as well. (Fox News)

Executives said costs have come down dramatically since [2013] and the new fuel cell system has become smaller, lighter, less complex and more durable.

The fuel cell producing part of the system has been reduced to the size of a box that would come close to fitting onto an airplane as carry-on luggage. A first-generation system from GM took up the entire floor space in a van, executives said. –Fox News

 Well, that was fast. Obama criticizes Trump on immigration after less than two weeks’ silence. The Chicago Tribune calls it “a rare move for an ex-President.”

 AP says “US Military Botches Online Fight against Islamic State

Several current and former WebOps employees cited multiple examples of civilian Arabic specialists who have little experience in counter-propaganda, cannot speak Arabic fluently and have so little understanding of Islam they are no match for the Islamic State online recruiters.

It’s hard to establish rapport with a potential terror recruit when — as one former worker told the AP — translators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for “salad” and “authority.” That’s led to open ridicule on social media about references to the “Palestinian salad.” –Desmond Butler and Richard Larnder for AP

 Competition does wonders: Walmart offers free 2-day shipping to compete with Amazon  (Reuters)

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ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, January 25

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

◆ Comment: No university president should ask students to lobby for a law. It is simply inappropriate. But that is exactly what Rutgers University president Robert Barchi did. (Campus Reform)

Further Comment: Rutgers’ Board of Governors should formally reprimand Barchi for this serious misuse of his authority.

Whether the law itself is good or bad is irrelevant. That is why I didn’t mention the substance of the law; all you need to know is that it is politically controversial to know Barchi was seriously wrong. Asking students to engage in a politically-controversial act (as opposed to urging them to vote) oversteps the proper bounds of any university official. To his credit, Barchi said that his request was purely optional. But he should never have made the request at all.

A university president should understand the proper bounds of his or her authority. Requesting students take a specific political position puts the university in a position of backing one view and opposing another. Generally, speaking, the university as an institution should remain neutral so the individual students, faculty, and staff can take any position they wish. If the university does wish to take an institutional position, it should do so but it should never urge students or faculty to support its position.

 Obama and Kerry gave $221 million to Palestinian political groups on his final hours in office (New York Post) Congress had tried to block the transfer, largely because so much of the money is divided between corrupt officials in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, direct payment to families of terrorists, who are treated as heroic martyrs, and to Hamas itself, which the US has deemed a terrorist organization.

 More obstruction and slow-walking: “Dems Force Trump’s Ed. Nominee to Answer 1,397 Questions in Writing–Obama’s TWO (nominees) had 109, Combined”  (Daily Caller)

Arne Duncan, Pres. Obama’s first Sec. of Ed., had 53 follow-up questions. His successor, John King, Jr., had 56. Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, has been flooded with 25 times as many.

Comment: This “flood the zone” strategy is effectively “lawfare,” in which political opponents use lawsuits and bureaucratic manuevers to tie up their opponents. If you oppose Betsy DeVos, vote against her. Stop playing these destructive, delaying games. They are why the House and Senate have lower popular support than used-car dealers.

 Trump says he will announce his Supreme Court nominee next week. Expect fireworks.

Comment: Trump’s nominee will inevitably be conservative, but there are different flavors that could please (or repel) different segments of the party.  What you can be certain of, in the post-Bork era, is that most Democrats will staunchly oppose.

What we don’t know yet–this will depend on the nominee–is whether some Democrats will support the nomination, perhaps because they are in states Trump carried and facing election themselves soon. Nor do we know if Mitch McConnell will decide to change the rules so the nominee needs 50 votes (plus the Vice-President), rather than 60.

Harry Reid opened the door when he changed the tradition Senate rules, but he did not include the Supreme Court. That exclusion, the Republicans will argue, was arbitrary and, now that Democrats are blocking the nominee, the rules need to change.

With so many elderly Justices, this fight could be repeated going forward, with Trump having a real chance to shape the court for years to come. It was a major issue for many voters, one that helped Trump and hurt Clinton, according to exit polls.

 Nikki Haley, Gov. of South Carolina until recently, confirmed as UN Ambassador with significant Democratic support, partly because she was so frank about where she disagreed with the President who appointed her. (Washington Post)

 Trump expected to sign Executive Orders for a border wall and against sanctuary cities. More on this as the orders emerge.  (Washington Post)

Beijing continues to warn Washington over the South China Sea (Time)

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Marcia Sukenik Weiss
 for the story on money given to Palestinian Authority
◆ Michael Lipson on Trump’s forthcoming Executive Orders