ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 6

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

Leaks that Pres. Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal

That action doesn’t kill the multilateral deal, but it does begin a process that could.

When Trump makes his formal decision about Iran’s behavior, as he is required to do periodically by law, the Congress will then have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.

Comment: The issue is complicated because (1) the agreement is multilateral and most other signatories want to stay in, (2) Obama front-loaded nearly all the benefits for Iran, among the most incompetent negotiating moves ever, and (3) the agreement does not limit Iran’s deadly, malevolent action in other areas, including missile tests (another major shortcoming).

Obama, Susan Rice, and John Kerry thought that Iran’s financial windfall would make them a more responsible actor.

That magical thinking is best captured by a Yiddish phrase:

More nasty weather headed our wayTropical Storm Nate could cause flooding in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast (NOLA.com)

It is expected to hit late Saturday night.

Comment: The Mississippi Gulf Coast has no protection, but New Orleans has wetlands to the south, which ought to afford some protection. Unfortunately, those wetlands–and the protection they afford–have shrunk dramatically over the past few decades, thanks to canals cut for pipelines and ships. The water moving through those cuts has changed the local ecology and harmed the wetlands.

Harvey Weinstein, film mogul and, according to interviews in the NYT, perpetrator of serial sexual harassment against actresses and employees

The New York Times broke the story as an exclusive, with vivid details and on-the-record accusations (link here).

Now, all the other news outlets are on the case.

BuzzFeed reports that Weinstein, a major player in national Democratic politics, is relying on key Clinton and Obama aides to cope with the fallout. (link here)

Normally, Gloria Allred appears as a plaintiff’s lawyer in the harassment cases, beginning with a huge press conference.

But that doesn’t happen when the allegations are against a major Democrat. Actually, Gloria’s daughter, Lisa Bloom, is involved–working for Weinstein and, she says, trying to educate him that “times have changed.”

Allred offered a half-hearted comment, saying she “would have declined” because she never represents people accused of harassment, only alleged victims. She offered no criticism of Mr. Weinstein.

Comment: Expect gloating and finger pointing from Republicans, who are happy to gain a moment’s relief from their own scandal, an anti-abortion Congressman who is resigning after texts surfaced, urging his mistress to terminate her pregnancy.

 After Las Vegas, Republicans open to banning “bump stocks” used to convert semi-automatic rifles into fully-automatic ones (New York Times)

The NRA seems open to some regulation, as well.

Comment: Because passing a law would take time, many are urging the ATF to change its regulatory interpretation. That’s passing the buck–and evading what should be a Congressional and Presidential responsibility. We’ve gotten so used to passing everything by Presidential decree or bureaucratic regulations, even Republican congressmen want to avoid the normal, constitutional process for changing our laws.

Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (D) is facing a tough reelection in a Republican-leaning state. Now, he gotten more bad news: a non-partisan report rates him the least effective Democrat in the Senate (Indianapolis Star)

Even when Democrats were in the majority, he accomplished almost nothing, they say.

Comment: His prospective Republicans opponents were shocked, shock, and appalled. “Indiana needs….”

 Nobel Prizes

  • Literature: Kuzuo Ishiguro, author of “Remains of the Day”
  • Chemistry: 3 scientists who improved images of molecules
  • Physics: 3 scientists who detected gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s
  • Medicine: 3 scientists who discovered the genes regulating the body’s biological clock

One of the winners in Medicine, Jeffrey Hall (emeritus, Brandeis) said that he collaborated with a Brandeis colleague, Michael Roshbash, because they shared common interests in “sports, rock and roll, beautiful substances and stuff.” He quit science ten years ago, he said at the time, because his grant funding ran out, the grant-review process was corrupt and biased, and he was fed up with academia. (story here)

Comment: Looks like he was proven right about the bias.

The Peace Prize will be given Friday. If they can find an innocent child or a do-gooder organization, fine. Otherwise, they should remember that they gave one to Arafat. They might want to think about what’s happening in Myanmar, either, since the country is headed by another Peace Prize winner and is now driving Rohingya Muslims out of the country.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, September 30

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

◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward

Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.

So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.

We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.

Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.

Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone. 

Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.

Mike Pence protégé, Seema Verma, seen as frontrunner to replace Price: She has deep experience running government health care programs (New York Post)

Verma currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act.

Verma led Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid when Pence was governor.

Comment: Experience is essential. HHS has 80,000 employees and a $1 trillion budget.

Indiana has been one of the three or four best-run state governments for two decades or more. Running programs there is high praise. Running them in Illinois normally leads to indictment.

Victor Davis Hanson on “A Lying Quartet”: The Obama Officials who Surveilled their Political Opponents (American Greatness)

The names are familiar:

Susan Rice
James Clapper
John Brennan
James Comey

With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.

Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.

So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson

Colin Kaepernick: Imperfect Messenger. Donated $25,000 to group named after convicted cop killer who broke out of jail and fled to Cuba (Daily Mail)

Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.

Comment #2Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.

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Hat Tip to

◆ Tom Elia for the Kaepernick story 

◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed

ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, August 11

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

Best story of the Day: Tim Tebow stops warming up to shake hands with an autistic child, then walks to the plate and hits a home run (Fox News)

“And then Tim hit the homer. I started crying, too. How does that happen? I think God brought Seth and Tim together.” –Fox News

Susan Rice op-ed on North Korea: “History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea” (New York Times)

Most amusing response: Cheryl K. Chumley

[Rice’s] opinion piece in the New York Times is titled, “It’s Not Too Late on North Korea.” A better title, though, is this: “Why America’s So Happy Barack Obama’s Gone.”

Delusion is her middle name. Rice was the lady, after all, who kept trying to sell America, post-Sept. 11, 2012, fatal attack on America’s compound in Benghazi, that the radical Muslim uprising that left U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and three other brave U.S. officials dead was due to a 14-minute YouTube video on the truths of Islam. Delusion then, delusion now. –Chumley in the Washington Times (link here)

Trump jabs at Mitch McConnell’s inability to get legislation through the Senate (New York Times)

 Trump says it his own way:

Comment: Washington insiders are appalled.  I am not.

They ask: How can two leaders from the same party fight? After all, they note, Harry Reid did whatever President Obama asked and, if he needed to blow up the Senate to do it, he did.

My view: Trump’s prodding of McConnell is perfectly reasonable for two reasons.

First, the American system, as designed by Madison and the Founders, hinges on the separation of the Congress and President. The presumption was–and is–that they have institutional stakes in preserving their own separate powers. If either could monopolize power, the path to tyranny would be open, or so the Founders thought. With that logic in mind, we should expect–indeed, we should desire–some clashes between the Executive and Legislative. The trouble, really, has been its steady erosion of this separation by an increasingly powerful presidency, as well as the growth of a poorly-controlled fourth branch of government, federal bureaucracies.

Second, Trump is right in highlighting the Senate’s inaction and hypocrisy. They voted for big items like “repeal and replace” only when they knew Pres. Obama would veto the bill. When they finally had a president who would sign the bill, they seized up. Trump did not ram a particular healthcare bill down their throats. Congress was largely free to write the bill by themselves. And they failed.

If they think voters aren’t furious about this mess, they are sadly mistaken. I share that disgust.

Writing Conference Canceled Because Of Too Many White People (Daily Caller and Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

The organizers of the Loft Literary Center’s conference, aimed at teaching people how to write young adult novels, scrapped their plans when they learned that all the speakers but one were white, reports the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune.

“We have set a goal for ourselves to be inclusive and to work toward equity, and we didn’t think the conference would live up to that mission,” Britt Udesen, executive director of the Loft, said Wednesday. “We made a mistake.” –Daily Caller

Comment: Makes perfect sense. Why in the world would you want to teach people to write novels after the horrifying discovery that the teachers were white?

No, it is far better to cancel this abomination and toss the students out onto an ice flow.

But that is not sufficient. Are the organizers to waltz away scot-free? Nay, I say.

They should be sent to labor in the rice fields and learn wisdom and humility from the peasantry. Only then will our Cultural Revolution be complete.

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Potentially a huge story: President Obama’s team sought NSA intel on thousands of Americans during the 2016 election

The report (here) is by Circa’s John Solomon, who, with his writing partner, Sara Carter, has been one of the top investigative reporters on the possible domestic spying and unmasking scandal.

The basic information Solomon reports is from a court order, not anonymous sources:

During his final year in office, President Obama’s team significantly expanded efforts to search National Security Agency intercepts for information about Americans, distributing thousands of intelligence reports across government with the unredacted names of U.S. residents during the midst of a divisive 2016 presidential election.

The data, made available this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provides the clearest evidence to date of how information accidentally collected by the NSA overseas about Americans was subsequently searched and disseminated after President Obama loosened privacy protections to make such sharing easier in 2011 in the name of national security. A court affirmed his order. –John Solomon in Circa

To put the issue succinctly, we need to know

  1. Exactly why this information was widely disseminated? What were the national security reasons (which are the only permissible reasons)?
  2. Exactly why were so many names unmasked and widely disseminated? What were the national security reasons (which are the only permissible reasons) for the repeated, widespread unmasking?
  3. Was the information truly collected collaterally and accidentally? Or was it “accidentally on purpose”?
    • Remember, the NSA is forbidden by law from spying on Americans. They can, however, collect collateral information if they are spying on others but need to be especially cautious about circulating info about Americans or unmasking their names.
  4. Which of Pres. Obama’s top aides were implicated in this spying story?

The numbers involved are large.

The searches ultimately resulted in 3,134 NSA intelligence reports with unredacted U.S. names being distributed across government in 2016, and another 3,354 reports in 2015. –Circa

And the information released is very sensitive:

Among those whose names were unmasked in 2016 or early 2017 were campaign or transition associates of President Trump as well as members of Congress and their staffers, according to sources with direct knowledge. –Circa

My comment: The Congress is not going to be pleased their names were circulated. The representatives will want to know exactly what the national security purpose was.

So, the comment Desi made to Lucy now applies to Susan Rice:

ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 4

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

 House to vote on Health Care today. Given how close this is, even a narrow passage doesn’t ensure it will make an agreed-version through both houses and onto Trump’s desk.

House leaders say they have the votes to pass it today (Washington Post)

NYT says the same and says the key was adding $8 billion to help the poor cover costs. (New York Times)

 Susan Rice refuses to testify in Senate probe of Russian interference   Trump lambasts her (Fox News)

Her stated reason: the top Democrat on the committee, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) didn’t ask. But he was very close to the Obama White House and was undoubtedly trying to block Lindsey Graham’s request.

Media-bias note: NEITHER the WaPo nor NYT mention this on the front web page, despite the Twitter attack and the prominence of the probe and Susan Rice. As the Fox reports notes,

Multiple sources told Fox News last month that Rice had requested to unmask the names of Trump transition officials caught up in foreign surveillance – including Trump’s short-lived national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

 EU is prominent issue in French election–and it is not a positive issue. 

Plus, reports agree that far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, won the debate against center-left, Emmanuel Macron  (CNN)

Her best line:  “France will be led by a woman, either me or Mrs Merkel.”

 Feeling the pressure? North Korea lashes out at China over nuclear issues, even though 90% of North Korea’s trade goes through China (Newsweek)

Comment: Newsweek says China is North Korea’s “only ally.” Actually, Iran is a major partner, too. 

 Odd economy: Labor Market tightening, jobless benefits down sharply, unemployment at 17-year low (Reuters), but growth numbers are very low.

 University crazies: “This is what a modern-day witch hunt looks like”  (New York magazine)

Rebecca Tuvel, a prof. at Memphis’ Rhodes College, writing in a feminist philosophy journal, plays with the idea that some people really could be “trans-racial,” as Rachel Dolezal famously claimed to be (after Dolezal was “outed” as being white).

The left did not like that idea one bit. They gathered signatures asking for the article to be retracted on purely ideological grounds:

In the letter, the authors ask that the article be retracted on the grounds that its “continued availability causes further harm” to marginalized people. –New York magazine

Comment: To me, the issue here is not whether Tuvel’s argument is right or wrong, interesting or boring. The issue is that some people are trying to stamp out this kind on philosophical speculation on purely ideological grounds. That is is appalling. It is the language- and thought-police at work. 

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Randi Belisomo Hernandez
for witch-hunt article

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 6

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

 A word of caution on two evolving scandals: Russia-Trump and Susan Rice

  • If there is evidence of serious crimes, each of these could become truly major events.
  • But so far we have few hard facts, shrouded in extremely sharp partisan attacks, mimicked and exacerbated by the news media.

Russia’s role in the US election:

  • The mainstream media continues to say that Russian interference in the US election (a fact) also involved direct collusion with senior Trump officials (a conjecture). So far, top intel officials not associated with Trump have said there is zero evidence of collusion.
  • There is an FBI counter-intelligence investigation of these issues. If it finds some self-dealing from Trump officials, using their positions to make money, that’s bad news for them and certainly newsworthy, but it is not a catastrophic national scandal. If if finds significant collusion between Russians and top Trump officials, that is a truly enormous crime against our democracy.

Susan Rice:

  • We know Rice lied publicly when she told PBS two weeks ago that she knew nothing about the unmasking of names.
  • Her story has changed. Now, she simply says she did nothing improper.
  • That may be correct. It seems to be very unusual to ask for as many unmasked names as Rice requested, but she will undoubtedly say she needed to know them to understand US intelligence. Whether that is true or false will depend on the scale of her requests and especially on the type of information contained in the intercepted conversations. If they were entirely related to US national security, she’s in the clear, or at least she can plausibly argue that she had good reasons for doing what she did. If the conversations are far removed from US national security issues, she’s in trouble–and so is the country for having a National Security Adviser who used US intelligence resources for domestic political purposes.
  • At this point, we simply do not know enough to discriminate between those two interpretations, one benign and one malign.

 News you haven’t seen about Susan Rice, the Obama Administration, and spying on US Citizens: 

Lee Smith, writing in The Tablet, says Rice “may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year” with info about Trump and associates. 

Smith focuses on the Iranian Nuclear Deal and says the US spied extensively on Israeli officials (who opposed the deal). No problem there; that is completely within the purview of the intel agencies. Since Israeli officials worked closely with US citizens, including lawmakers, who opposed the deal, their conversations were picked up, too. The question is whether the Obama White House, in possession of this information, restricted its use to national security or went beyond that, abusing the foreign intelligence system.

Smith reaches a devastating conclusion:

I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. –Lee Smith in The Tablet

 Pres. Trump harshly condemns Syria after deadly sarin gas attack, calling it “horrendous” and saying it crossed “several” red lines, deliberately invoking Obama’s language

Comment: The shift in US policy was abrupt. Only a few days earlier the US had resigned itself to Assad’s continued rule. The change is clearly the result of the chemical attack. Pres. Trump’s language, especially his use of Obama’s term, signals some kind of military strike.

I would be shocked if the US put troops into this no-win situation. The US can certainly damage the Assad regime from the air, but, even there, a strike runs the risk of conflict with Russia, which (along with Iran) is the main foreign support for Assad’s regime. 

The larger strategic problem for the US is that there is no way to stand up a pro-western regime there without enormous costs and high risks.

Two big Thursday events: Chinese leader Xi meets Trump in Florida, US Senate moves to end debate and vote on Gorsuch for Supreme Court

Comment: More on them tomorrow when we have real news.

 McMaster asserts his control over the National Security Council

  • All news outlets are reporting Steve Bannon is out (he should never have been in);
  • What many are not noticing is that McMaster is filling out his organization with skilled professionals.

Good report at Politico.

 

 

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, April 4

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

 St. Petersburg, Russia hit by deadly Islamacist terrorist attack, probably retaliation for Russian action in Syria. (Washington Post)

At least 11 dead, 30+ injured.

No one has claimed responsibility yet, but everyone suspects Islamic terrorists associated with the fighting in Syria.

A crackdown by Putin is certain.

 Democrats have enough votes to filibuster Gorsuch. (New York Times)

Comment: Mitch McConnell won’t let it prevent Gorsuch’s confirmation. For D’s in purple and red states, this opposition is perilous. Their base loves it, their donors love it, but the general public does not.

 President of Northern Arizona Univ. rejects idea of “safe spaces.” Students now demand her resignation.  (Heat Street)

Rita Cheng had the courage to tell students they had to confront ideas they don’t like.

Comment: Well, they didn’t like that idea.

 White House says mainstream media not showing interest in Obama-era spying (Washington Post)

Comment: Absolutely right. In a separate post (here), I show screenshots from CNN, NYT, and WaPo that completely ignored the revelations about Susan Rice on Monday.  That’s worse than spin. 

 CNN’s chief national security correspondent say Susan Rice story is a “distraction” that the Trump Administration “ginned up” (Daily Caller)

Comment: CNN is the name of a former news organization

 Odd, new job titles: “Sales Enablement Associate” Yes, someone just emailed me with that title.

Comment: Like all right-thinking people at universities, I object to Enableism.

 

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Free Tip for Susan Rice: Do NOT Go on Television. It never ends well

Or Radio. Or Podcasts. Or Smoke Signals.

I’m just glad CNN, NBC, the Washington Post, and New York Times take her word for it.

Of course, the more serious question is whether Rice will talk when the FBI and the House and Senate committees come calling. My hunch, and it is only that, is that she will release statements saying she did nothing wrong and then decline to answer questions. We need to know what legitimate, national-security purpose she had for unmasking the names on each document she requested. We need to know, under oath, if she spoke about any of this with Valerie Jarrett. We can assume that she will never say she spoke about this to President–and we can assume that she is as truthful as always.

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Kudos, once again, to William Jacobson and Legal Insurrection.

 

UPDATE: Burying the Lede–the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN refuse to even mention the Susan Rice story

Bloomberg’s Eli Lake broke the story that Susan Rice had sought an extraordinarily large number of intel intercepts involving the Trump team, beginning in July, and had succeeded in seeing the real names of US citizens, rather than the normally masked versions.

Sara Carter and John Solomon continue their excellent reporting on these issues at Circa: White House logs indicate Susan Rice consumed unmasked intel on Trump associates

Rice’s requests seem to go well beyond an interest in national security issues, but information is still murky and Rice herself is refusing to comment. After her Benghazi performance, she may feel shy about public comments.

Given the prominence Trump’s allegations that he was spied on and the felonious unmasking of Michael Flynn’s name, the story is obviously an important one.

Drudge and Fox News lead with it, but one could imagine it is the second, third, or sixth-ranked story of the day, depending on your judgment about the Gorsuch hearings, etc..

BUT CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post do not even mention the story. It should go without saying that NBC News skips the story.

Silent as Calvin Coolidge getting a haircut.

Omission, like commission, can be a sign of bias, and, in this case, it is.

They didn’t just bury the lede. They cremated it and scattered the ashes at sea, at night.

Two other ZipDialog stories today on this: one focusing on CNN’s bias, the other on Bloomberg’s report on Susan Rice.

Here’s this evening CNN front page, with the Susan Rice story completely absent. Scroll down for screenshots of the NYT and WaPo.  Let’s hope they do better tomorrow.

Here’s the NYT:

And the Washington Post: