Recent Posts by Charles Lipson

ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, June 28

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

 First, thanks to so many of you for reading my latest column at Real Clear Politics. And I want to thank many others who shared it with friends by email or as Facebook posts.

It’s important to shame the organizers of the Dyke March–if such embarrassment is even possible.

In any case, it is important to explain how they mistreated the Jewish lesbians who wished to march with a pride banner that included the Star of David. Instead, they were banned.

Today, the march organizers saw the criticism and, rather than recanting, actually doubled-down on their idiocy. They even repeated the grotesque charge of “pinkwashing,” as if Israel’s positive treatment of gays were somehow a subterfuge. Truly paranoid reasoning.

It’s passing strange to see the extreme left and extreme right find one thing they can agree on.

 Healthcare bill postponed in the Senate: Mitch McConnell doesn’t have the votes and delays a vote until after the Fourth of July recess. He has some dollars to bargain with.

But his main leverage, as I see it, is individual Republican holdouts understanding the grave political dangers they face if they cannot pass a reform bill, however imperfect.

Mitch puts a smiley face on the delay and says they continue to make progress (story here at the Washington Post)

Meanwhile, the nineteenth Obamacare cooperative has failed; only four are left standing. (Washington Free Beacon)

It’s like an Agatha Christie movie as we wait to find out which one is left alive.

◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ 

Comment on the basic political problem facing Republicans on the healthcare bill

The biggest problem for Republicans who want a smaller central government but still want to be reelected is this:

Obamacare subsidizes health insurance for everyone up to four times the poverty level.

That’s extremely costly, of course, and actually has the perverse effect of lowering the quality of care (to keep costs down) and channeling subsidies away from the most needy (because so much is devoted to others, just above them).

Whatever the problems, people get hooked on “free” benefits, especially if somebody else is paying.

Unwinding those benefits is nearly impossible politically.

The Democrats knew that when they passed the bill.   

Indeed, passing out such largess and locking in these big-government social programs has been the basic Democratic strategy since the mid-1960s.

That’s exactly what they did here.

Among the beneficiaries are lots of “working poor,” including the lower-middle-class whites who voted for Trump but won’t vote for Senators who take away their benefits.

What Republicans are coming to recognize, however painfully, is that they may be able to scale back the subsidies a bit and promote market-based solutions, but they cannot undo the basic features of the Obama-Reid-Pelosi subsidy program. It has already metastasized. 

 As Venezuela descends into chaos and civil war, a policeman stole a helicopter and strafed the country’s Supreme Court (CNN)

Regime loyalists shot back and lobbed grenades.

Comment: Sean Penn had no comment.

 Three Chicago cops indicted for lying to coverup an infamous 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white officer.  (Chicago Tribune)

When tapes of the shooting were finally released after more than a year, the city was engulfed by protests.

The shooter, Officer Jason Van Dyke, was charged with murder, and the DA who withheld the tapes was defeated in her campaign for reelection.

But people also wanted to know about all the other officers on the scene. What did they say and do?

That’s what the current charges, made by a special prosecutor, are about.

They strike at what critics call a “blue wall of silence,” sometimes buttressed by outright lies.

 Former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, finally registers as a foreign agent (Politico)

He did not register while he was receiving the money and doing the lobbying. Now, he has. His firm

made more than $17 million working as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, according to newly filed disclosure reports. –Politico

These pro-Russian groups didn’t put all their eggs in one basket. No sir.

They also hired two other firms for big money, one of them with a family name, The Podesta Group.

Who runs the Podesta Group? Why, it’s the brother of the chair of Hillary’s campaign.

Comment: That sulfurous smell? It’s the Washington Swamp, and it’s bipartisan.

 How big is Facebook? Two billion monthly users. YouTube is up to 1.5 billion (Techcrunch)

Whatsapp is now over a billion, as is Facebook Messenger.

Twitter, by contrast, has 328 million monthly users, all with very short attention spans.

 The Onion: Robert Mueller Begins Thirteenth Day Undercover As White House Janitor

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Bob Schwartz
 for the update on the Dyke March Collective
◆ Michael Lipson for the Manafort story

Surprisingly, it detracts from your job application

The Daily Caller picked up the story from a Swedish newspaper, Expressen, which interviewed the returning ISIS fighters. (Daily Caller story here)

Swedish daily Expressen interviewed some of the 150 terrorists who have moved back to Sweden after fighting for ISIS. Many of them have changed their legal names to be able to rejoin society, but few are able to get jobs.

“I just want to forget everything,” a 27-year-old man formerly known as Walad Yousef told Expressen. “I apply for a lot of jobs, but I can’t get any because my pictures are out there.” –Daily Caller

I think we can all agree the Expressen report is more eloquent:

Hundratals svenskar åkte till kriget för att slåss för IS – så lever återvändarna i dag. –Expressen

Fancy Names for Left-Wing Anti-Semitism (my latest at Real Clear Politics)

The celebrations in this weekend’s Chicago Gay Pride festival were marred by one mean-spirited moment. The organizers of the “Dyke March” blocked Jewish women from participating because they carried a gay-pride banner that included a Star of David.

“It made us feel unsafe,” the organizers actually said, before launching into their rant against Israel and those who support it.)

This episode is not only noxious in its own right, it highlights several problems that are now pervasive on the left and increasingly pollute America’s public life.

The most important is the growing public expression of anti-Semitism, much of it fueled by the strange alliance between progressives (such as the Dyke March organizers) and rabid anti-Israel activists, led by Palestinians.

In this column (link here), I

  • explain the logic behind this alliance,
  • decode the fancy words used to hold it together (such as “intersectionality”), and
  • highlight their penchant for suppressing dissent rather than engaging it.

These larger problems deserve exposure.

They deserve censure, too, when they violate our democratic norms of tolerance, free speech, and open debate. That’s what this column does.

To continuing reading at Real Clear Politics, click here.

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 26

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

 After indications that Syria’s Assad might use chemical weapons again, Trump warns he will pay “a heavy price” for “mass murder” (New York Times)

Comment: As with most deterrent threats, it is hard to know whether it will work.

What we do know is that it is could work because it is credible.

That is, the target (Syria, in this case) has good reasons to believe we will do what we threaten if he acts.

After Pres. Obama’s failed “red line” and other missteps, our threats were heavily discounted.

It is worth noting, then, that Trump has managed to reestablish America’s deterrent threat quickly after 8 years of neglect and decline.

 CNN has made several major errors in reporting the Trump-Russia investigation, all adverse to the Administration.

After the retractions, three CNN journalists are going to spend more time with their families. Story here (Washington Post)

Comment: My sense is that CNN’s main viewership is airport passengers delayed in boarding.

I hope the transportation industry survives this setback.

 Amazing story, if further proof emerges. Circa reports that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn began after he intervened to help a (purported) victim of FBI sexual discrimination.  Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter have done first-rate reporting on scandals, so their coverage should be taken seriously. The key here is that the person accused of discrimination is very high-ranking. Indeed, he was acting head of the agency after Comey stepped down.

The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.

Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.

There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.

McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.

Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.

Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus. 

The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.

The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.

This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.

 California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label.  They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)

 That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.

Story here.

Comment: Check the man for rabies.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
for the Circa story on the FBI

◆ Sam Stubbs for the CNN story.

Sam reported it correctly, unlike CNN

 

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.

 

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

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

 

In today’s manufacturing, higher technology means a lot fewer jobs

A tweet about the steel industry

The jobs in these traditional industries, such as steel and autos, pay well and support whole communities.

But the manufacturing process looks a lot different that our 1950s image of it.

There are a lot fewer jobs on the production line–and a lot more programming machines.

One piece of good news for American industry: with fewer production-line employees, there are fewer benefits from transferring production to low-wage locations overseas.

ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 25

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

◆ Speculation grows that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement.

The current Court year ends Monday, and any announcement would come soon after.

Kennedy is 80, was appointed by a Republican, and has served 29 years on the Court, recently as a crucial swing vote.

There are several elderly Democrats on the court, but they want to hang on (if health permits) in hopes of another Democratic president.

Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have lawyered up to defend against allegations of bank fraud(CBS)

When Jane was president of Burlington (VT) College, she got big bank loans for an expansion project that ultimately failed and bankrupted the college.

The investigation is (1) whether the loans were based on Jane’s false representations about the college’s fundraising and (2) whether Bernie used his office to pressure the bank to make the loan.

 The battle for post-ISIS Syria is shaping up

The background: the Obama Administration did nothing in Syria and pulled out of Iraq, opening the door wide for Iran to control Baghdad and Damascus (the Assad government) and providing political space for ISIS to build its “caliphate” for Sunnis.

The change: Trump dramatically altered US policy, and, under the leadership of Mattis at DOD and McMaster at NSC, the US has been taking the fight to ISIS.

The result: Iran is closing in on ISIS from one direction, the US from the other.

There are three big issues in this end-game:

  1. Will ISIS turn to move civilian attacks in Europe (and possibly America)?
  2. Will US and Iranian forces be able to avoid direct military confrontation as they converge on ISIS’ last strongholds
  3. Who controls what territory in post-ISIS Syria?

An excellent primer on the emerging issues is Udi Dekel’s “East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State” from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS, Israel)

The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria. –Udi Dekel

◆ Political correctness to stop free speech in Arkansas? Yep.

But the University stepped in and did the right thing.

The Univ. of Arkansas’ King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies decided to hold a symposium on honor killings.

The Center’s director, a geosciences professor named Tom Paradise, included Prof. Phyllis Chesler (from CUNY) on one panel since she has published widely on the subject, arguing that scholars have underplayed the role of Islam in these killings.

Three Arkansas professors raised holy hell about it, saying the could never “countenance” Chesler’s participation, even though it would simply be a Skype call.

The Center caved and disinvited Chesler, according to an editorial in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Now, the University has done the right thing.

They removed Prof. Paradise from the center’s leadership, saying “The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution.”

Comment: The university did the right thing.

 Palestinians “disappointed” after “tense meeting” with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special emissary (The Hill)

Key disagreement: US wants Palestinians to stop paying terrorists for killing Jews.

Palestinian Authority likes paying them. Abbas told Trump it would stop and simply assumed the president knew he was lying.

Trump held him to account.

The PA has also been adamant about keeping incendiary, anti-Semitic materials in their school textbooks.

The larger problems for Abbas: no succession lined up, and the Middle East is moving forward without them.

Comment: My guess: Trump will look at Kushner’s report of the meetings and decide this is not a good time to push forward with negotiations.

Trump has always understood something about these negotiations that most presidents don’t: the US can help if both parties want an agreement. But it cannot force an agreement on parties that don’t want one and aren’t prepared to make serious concessions.

 Oklahoma doctor prescribed so many painkillers, she’s being charged with murder in one patient’s death  (Washington Post)

The patient, Sheila Bartels, received

what drug addicts call “the holy trinity” of prescription drugs: the powerful painkiller Hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant known as Soma.

In total, pharmacists handed her 510 pills that day — all legal, because she had a prescription with the signature of her doctor, Regan Ganoung Nichols, scrawled at the bottom, according to a probable cause affidavit. –Washington Post

Comment: Cracking down on excessive prescriptions is crucial in this fight.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Sam Stubbs
 for the Sanders bank fraud story
◆ Gregg Roman for the University of Arkansas speech-suppression story