• ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Sunday, January 8

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

    ◆ Positive, human-interest story on medical marijuana, with a moving headline: “I made my autistic son cannabis cookies. They saved him.”

    At the time [our 9-year-old son] was consumed by violent rages. He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.

    But when I got the cookies right, he calmed down. His aggressions became less ferocious and less frequent. Mealtimes became less fraught. He was able to maintain enough self-composure that he even learned how to ride a bike — despite every expert telling us it would never happen.

    It seemed like a miracle. And seven years later, it’s still working. –Marie Myung-Ok Lee (Chicago Tribune, originally in Washington Post)

    ◆ Democrats want to delay hearings on Trump’s cabinet picks That’s the report in The Hill.

    Comment: The political wisdom of the Democrats’ strategy depends on their reasons. If they want essential financial and ethics information, the delay will be seen as justifiable. If there are not substantive reasons, then the Democrats will be seen as obstructionist, part of the swamp Trump promised to drain.

    ◆ “The stuff that dreams are made of” I just learned that Bogie ad libbed that line. It wasn’t in the script.

    ◆ Goodbye to two fine men: Nat Hentoff and Mario Soares

    ◆ Hentoff, aged 91, was a great jazz critic, a fierce defender of free speech, and prolific author. A true mensch.  The NYT obituary is here.

    ◆ Mario Soares, 92, played a crucial role in Portugal’s transition to democracy after decades of right-wing, authoritarian rule. The BBC calls him the “Father of Portuguese Democracy.”

    ◆ Putin wins his last round against Obama, says The Economist. Now, they say, he will have to hang on to power with that scapegoat. The story is here.

    Comment: We’ll see. Putin is currently jousting with plenty of dragons around the world; perhaps they can serve as scapegoats. Trump clearly wants to shift relations with Russia; that explains his overtures and smooth relations with the Kremlin before he takes office. The question is what will happen to those relations after Trump faces his first crisis with Russia. (Remember, things went smoothly with Ted Cruz, too, until their interests clashed directly.)

    ◆ Taiwan’s leader is coming to the US, and Beijing is not happy about it. CNBC has the story.




  • A wonderful, steaming bio of actress Mary Astor, reviewed with zest by Woody Allen

    Woody’s review in the New York Times is here, and it’s a pleasure to read, much like his early writing.

    I loved Mary Astor as the femme fatale, played against Humphrey Bogart, in The Maltese Falcon.

    She is also remembered for Meet Me in St. Louis.

    Off-screen, it turns out, she loved rollin’ and tumblin’, as the blues songs put it.

    And, while blues men wrote songs, Mary wrote a diary. Alas for Mary, her husband discovered it.

    Woody loves the book and recounts the main themes with characteristic humor.

    The link to the book at Amazon, Mary Astor’s Purple Diary by Edward Sorel, is here, if you want to read the juicy details of Hollywood scandals in the golden years.

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, Dec. 10

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

    ◆ Deeply troubling assessment from the CIA that Russia was trying to help Trump win the White House
    (Washington Post)

    The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

    Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.–Washington Post

    Comment: This summer, I said, in print, that the Russians favored Trump and would leak any materials their spies had collected. Their reason was less their favorability toward Trump than their dislike of Hillary Clinton, whom they considered tougher on NATO and whom they associated with Bill Clinton’s expansion of NATO in the 1990s.

    That they may well have tried to hack into the voting process itself is very serious and should be carefully investigated, as it will be. 

    The Democrats have strong incentives to do this, but they should not overreach and say the interference had much impact (beyond the leaked DNC memos), much less that it drove the outcome.

    ◆ Hillary Clinton, past and future

    ⇒ Her losing campaign cost a record $1.2 billion, twice what the Donald spent. (NY Post)

    ⇒ Latest moves indicate Hillary Clinton won’t fade away (Fox News)

    After a brief period of reclusion, Clinton is slowly but surely appearing more in public, and in ways that indicate a political and public future of some sort. –Fox News

    Comment: Purchases of garlic and crosses surge, mostly among Democrats.

    ◆ Fred Smith created FedEx and still runs it, so he knows a bit about world trade. He doesn’t like Trump’s ideas on the subject. (Fortune)

    ◆ Related story: Trump’s trade team is stocked with veterans of steel-trade conflicts with China (Reuters)

    ◆ The Oxford American magazine has an essay on one of the great photographers of our time, William Eggleston, whose use of color transformed the medium.

    The photographer William Eggleston as photographed by Maude Schuyler Clay. This snapshot appears in a new exhibit at Power House Memphis called “Guilding Light – A tribute to William Eggleston.”

    Personal story: How I totally embarrassed myself when I met Bill Eggleston: It was the mid-1970s, and I had never heard of him, even though lovers of photography already knew his work in black-and-white. A friend told him that Bill would be coming to Cambridge, Mass., and urged me to meet him. I was happy to and invited him for lunch at the Harvard Faculty Club. We sat down, began exchanging pleasantries, and I asked (quite sincerely), “Are you one of those Delta photographers who take pictures of debutantes leaning against an oak tree at their daddy’s plantation?” “No,” he said, he didn’t do much of that. I guess not. He had come East for the opening of his one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art.

    That path-breaking show, his first with color, was excoriated by critics at the time. NYT critic Hilton Kramer was particularly savage.

    Since then, the show has been recognized as a major achievement in modern photography and a launching point for the use of color and attention to banal, everyday objects. As The Australian put it in a headline this year: “Photographer William Eggleston pioneered use of colour at MOMA



    ◆ Send interesting stories to
    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com



  • Very human moments: The Obamas and Bushes at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

    There were so many touching moments today at the opening ceremonies for Smithsonian Institute National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

    One of the most moving and unexpected (to me) was when Michelle Obama saw George Bush and immediately hugged him. You could see the mutual respect and affection.

    It takes only a moment, but it’s worth seeing.

    As President, George W. Bush signed the legislation for the museum, which was completed under Pres. Obama.

    The second moment worth watching was Pres. Bush asking Pres. Obama to take a photo.

  • ZipDialog’s News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, September 16

    Fresh every day and always being updated–

    ♦ Killing enemy tanks is “fun and easy” says a US Marine, and it’s getting much easier. New technology makes the anti-tank rockets even more accurate and easy to use. (Popular Mechanics)

    Unlike the traditional Bazooka and RPG-16 grenade launcher, both of which use a reusable launch tube, the AT-4 uses a rocket that is sealed into the tube at the factory. The operator places the tube on his or her shoulder, lines up the enemy tank in the weapon sights, and fires away. Once fired, you can throw the launch tube away. Hopefully you won’t need it anymore, because the tank is dead.

    Kyle Mizokami
    in Popular Mechanics

    ♦ Trump supporters have embraced the phrase, “The Deporables,” which Hillary Clinton used to attack them. Dan Henniger writes about it. (WSJ) The best line, by far, is Henniger’s attack on the left’s ethnic-grievance political mobilization, which is inherently divisive.

    Her supporters say it’s Donald Trump’s rhetoric that is “divisive.” Just so. But it’s rich to hear them claim that their words and politics are “inclusive.” So is the town dump. [The Democrats] have chopped American society into so many offendable identities that only a Yale freshman can name them all.

    If the Democrats lose behind Hillary Clinton, it will be in part because America’s les déplorables decided enough of this is enough.

    Dan Henniger in the Wall Street Journal

    ♦ Hillary Clinton pushes back hard, says she has been more transparent than Trump. (The Hill)

    ♦ New Quinnipiac Poll shows voters believe Trump is more transparent, but the numbers for both candidates are miserable. Quite appropriately.  Voters also believe Hillary has “the right kind of experience to be President” and Trump does not. (Quinnipiac)

    ♦ California decides to divert more water, taking it farms and cities to aid endangered fish. (WSJ) Actually, this is the same story as “The Deplorables.” It is about the “little people” being held in utter contempt by tout en haut du monde, who make the policies to suit themselves.

    ♦ Fiction writer Lionel Shriver shreds the academic conceit of “cultural appropriation” and the “clamorous world of identity politics” which gave birth to it. Shriver’s essay ends with her declaration, “The last thing we fiction writers need is restrictions on what belongs to us.”

    Comment: Here’s how “cultural appropriation” works:

    1. You are classified as a member of a group, say, transgender, Mexican-American, or fat. Your group membership should then dominate your self-conception, at least politically.
    2. Your group deems itself oppressed, or rather its most vocal, politicized members say the group and all of its members are. They use this group identity and its oppressed status as tools for political mobilization. The key is for most members of the group to accept this putative group identity and its oppressed status as dominant (indeed, unquestioned) characteristics.
    3. Having organized yourself as an oppressed group, you identify the oppressors who are responsible for all the group’s misfortunes and attack them. Oppressors can attain absolution (the secular equivalent of salvation) by supporting the goals and actions of the oppressed group.
    4. A key element of your attack: Only your own group has the moral right to depict its own experiences, to write about them, paint them, or use their music. All others are shamed if they try to do so, especially anyone deemed to be in the “oppressor class.” Those people are “appropriating your culture.”  (Comment by Charles Lipson)

    Want examples? The fusion of rock music and blues music–and rock-and-roll more broadly–would be deemed unacceptable because they are built on the “appropriation” of an indigenous African-American cultural form.  Here is one artistic response:



    ♦ Easily the best “political picture of the day.” When politicians get together with kids or animals, anything can happen.trump-kidnapping-photo

    ♥ Thanks to Bret Stephens for highlighting the Lionel Shriver essay in a tweet and to John Lartz and Anna Lamothe for The Hill’s story about Hillary Clinton.

  • The “Creative Divide” between North and South

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    A fascinating article in the Washington Post, “The Sunning Geographic Divide in American Creativity,” uses polling data collected by the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA and the US Census asked residents if they had created works of art or performed in 2014.  “Works of art” was defined broadly to include everything from ceramics to weaving, photography, creative writing, and more. “Performing” included playing a musical instrument, acting, singing, and dancing.

    The NEA’s data shows the geographic divide is not between the Coasts and Fly-over Country. It is between North and South. And the differences are stark. Surprisingly so, at least to me.

    As a social scientist, I would like to see the data analyzed with some key variables held constantly, particularly income and urban/rural location. I would love to see a county-by-county map, too. Would it show large states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois had some regions that were more engaged in creative arts and some that were less? Why did some poor states, such as Maine and Wyoming, have such high percentages while Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky had such low ones? I have no idea. But the map does prompt those questions, which is why I find it so interesting.

    North-South Creative Divide