Reason Roundup

Will Arrested Chinese Tech Exec Become a Trade War Pawn? Reason Roundup

Plus: Trump dumps on the media as CNN faces a bomb scare, murder rates are falling, and corporate gender quotas don't work.


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The arrest of Chinese tech exec Meng Wanzhou got relatively little attention at first. But the move could mean a major escalation in America's trade war with China.

Meng's company, Huawei, is under Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation after allegedly violating sanctions on Iran, though DOJ won't say more than that. Meng was detained by Canadian authorities on the United States' behalf during a Saturday flight transfer in Vancouver.

"Her arrest was meant as a warning shot by the Trump administration in its campaign to limit the global spread of Chinese technology," reports The New York Times. "But it has thrown Mr. Trump's trade negotiations with Beijing into disarray, drawing a sharp protest from the Chinese government and sending financial markets into a panicky swoon, before a modest recovery on Thursday afternoon."

Last weekend, Trump's chats with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 summit made it seem like a compromise on trade was near.

Now the timing of Meng's arrest "could feed the suspicion of Chinese officials that nationalist factions in the Trump administration were trying to sabotage the trade deal," notes the Times. National Security Adviser John Bolton said he had just found out before Trump's dinner chat with Xi and had not informed the president yet, and "former American officials said the awkward timing of it was most likely a coincidence that grew out of the unpredictable travel schedule of Ms. Meng."

But people inside the White House may already be looking for ways to leverage Meng's arrest on behalf of Trump trade war pursuits.

The Huawei investigation has reportedly been ongoing since 2010, led by U.S. attorneys in states where Huawei has offices (Alabama, California, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas). The Times reports that "investigators grew concerned that company officers were working on behalf of the Chinese government" and that if Meng stands trial in the U.S., "prosecutors might try to demonstrate Huawei's ties to the Chinese Communist Party and various state agencies, and to dramatize the potential security compromises related to that."


On fake bombs and fake news. CNN had to halt live programming last night when its Manhattan building was evacuated over a bomb threat.

"Right now, @realDonaldTrump could tweet the following: 'Bomb threats against CNN and other media outlets are never acceptable.' But he won't," commented Republican strategist and author Rick Wilson. Instead, around the same time as CNN was being evacuated, President Donald Trump tweeted:

The tweet was ostensibly a follow-up to two prior tweets full of "Witch Hunt!" and "17 Angry Dems" and "Sad!"

This morning, Trump has continued on his disjointed Twitter frenzy about Robert Mueller's investigation and impending report. It's better if you read it in an old-timey schlock crime-series narrator voice:

Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? … Will all of the lying and leaking by the people doing the Report, & also Bruce Ohr (and his lovely wife Molly), Comey, Brennan, Clapper, & all of the many fired people of the FBI, be listed in the Report? Will the corruption within the DNC & Clinton Campaign be exposed?..And so much more!"

Stay tuned! On the next episode of the U.S. leader's Twitter feed…

As far as White House strategy on responding to Mueller's report goes…well, there really isn't one, according to The Atlantic's Elaina Plott:

There are numerous other reasons no response plan has been produced, White House sources said, including the futility of crafting a strategy that Trump will likely ignore anyway. There have also been few frank conversations within the White House about the potential costs of Mueller's findings, which could include impeachment of the president or the incrimination of his inner circle. Those close to Trump have either doubled down on the "witch hunt" narrative, they said—refusing to entertain the possibility of wrongdoing—or decided to focus on other issues entirely. Former Press Secretary Sean Spicer has even taken to treating the probe like a game: On Wednesday he tweeted a (quickly deleted) link where followers could place bets on "how many tweets containing #mueller" the president will send "before the investigation is up."

Attempting to plan "would mean you would have to have an honest conversation about what might be coming," a former senior White House official, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told me.


Driving voluntary change. By the end of 2019, California corporations that are publicly traded must have at least one woman on their board of directors. But "while it's hard to argue against the value of women on boards, how a company gets there can be controversial and raise several questions," cautions Kiersten Barnet, who chairs the steering committee of the 30% Club ("a group of business leaders who are committed to better gender balance at all levels of their organizations through voluntary actions," according to her bio).

"Most notably, there is the question of whether quotas lead to the desired outcome of better gender balance throughout company ranks," Barnet writes at Fast Company:

Past government regulations, like Norway's government-mandated quotas beginning in 2008, have shown that while they may increase the number of women on boards, there is no substantive evidence that shows quotas as a catalyst for systemic change across companies. In Norway's example, the percentage of women in C-suite and senior leadership positions has not risen in tandem. On a larger scale, mandated regulations for diversity and inclusion risk causing complacency across private firms tempted to check a box, instead of taking an opportunity to be leaders in driving wide-reaching change.

More here.


  • Former attorney general William Barr is being considered for the job again. Barr "is President Trump's leading candidate to be nominated to lead the Justice Department," The Washington Post reports. That's bad news:

UPDATE: Trump has confirmed he'll nominate Barr.

  • The U.S. murder rate is falling again.
  • The Appeal takes a look "at the women left behind" by New York City's efforts to decarcerate.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen is up for a Best Actor award at the Golden Globes for his power-trolling series Who Is America?
  • World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee presents a (rather lackluster, IMHO) "Contract for the Web."
  • Encrypted email platform Protonmail offers good reading list on internet privacy.
  • Are you ready for the "inevitable" clampdown on tech and the media?
  • Politico's Jack Shafer on the presumptive death of The Weekly Standard: "The magazine never lost its voice, it just lost the conservative movement."
  • "In 10 years of political reporting I've met a lot of intense, oddly dressed people with very specific ideas about what the perfect world would look like, some of them in elected office—but none quite so strange as the ideological soup of starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise": Laurie Penny on her half-a-week at sea with "crypto's nouveau riche."
  • Congratulations, Australia, writes Scott Shackford—you've just destroyed the world's data privacy!
  • Protecting and serving: