• It’s the Chicago “Safe Summer” sports league, so what could possibly go wrong?

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    “The whole idea behind it was to keep kids safe.

    And then it evolved into what it did,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. (Chicago Tribune story here.)

    According to the Tribune:

    Police finally canceled the event after fighting broke out. At least one video circulating on social media showed two girls brawling with each other as some people in the crowd jumped in, striking the women. –Chicago Tribune

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  • Kudos to a Chicago DA fighting FOR a prisoner’s rights

    Normally, the prosecutor gives a big “thumbs up” when a judge keeps a suspect in jail.

    Not this time.

    The second-ranking prosecutor in Cook County (Chicago) not only gave a thumbs down, he risked contempt of court by arguing so vociferously against the judge.

    • The judge: Nicholas Ford, known for his tough sentences.
    • The prosecutor: Eric Sussman. (Full disclosure: I have known Eric all his life.)
    • The defendant: Karen Padilla, held on several charges and mother of a new baby, born in jail

    The Chicago Tribune reports (link here):

    A longtime Cook County judge and a top prosecutor repeatedly shouted at each other Monday at a tense hearing over whether a pregnant woman should have been jailed without bail for more than a month this summer.

    “I have every right to hold her,” said Judge Nicholas Ford, a former prosecutor known for imposing tough sentences.

    “You do not!” countered First Assistant State’s Attorney Eric Sussman, his voice raised.

    At times, the argument grew so heated that the two talked over each other, making their comments nearly unintelligible, as Karen Padilla stood nearby with her 3-week-old daughter strapped on her chest in a carrier. –Chicago Tribune

    The defendant, Padilla, had several significant charges pending, none violent. Her current problems began when she was pulled over for a traffic violation, admitted that she had no driving license, and, when her records were checked, was found to have an outstanding arrest warrant (she was charged with pocketing customers’ payments at a restaurant where she worked).

    So, she was taken to jail and was scheduled for a hearing, where she might be released, pending a trial date.

    Because her hearing was delayed (no judge was available, apparently), the 25-year-old mother stayed in jail and gave birth there.

    “Mr. Sussman, this is simple,” [Judge] Ford said.

    “No, it’s not,” Sussman interjected, his voice raised, and the two again began to shout over each other.

    “She had to give birth to her daughter in jail!” said Sussman, noting that Padilla couldn’t afford to pay restitution or fees as she was ordered. “This is not a debtor’s prison you’re running, your honor … and you illegally sentenced her to jail.”

    “I didn’t sentence her to anything,” Ford shot back. –Chicago Tribune

    Padilla was ultimately released on her on own recognizance.

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    Comment: I couldn’t be prouder of Eric Sussman for his conduct in this case.

    I know his family shares that pride.

    I only wish his father, Art (himself a very distinguished attorney), were here with mom Rita to smile at the work Eric is doing and the values he is fighting for.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 14

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

    ◆ Quick Update on Charlottesville, which remains the top story.

    1. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are now facing a federal investigation for violating civil rights.
    2. The driver of the deadly car, to be arraigned today, will be looked at closely to see if he was part of a conspiracy
    3. Pres. Trump still being excoriated (across the political spectrum) for his failure to single out the neo-Nazis and supremacists in his statement condemning the violence
    4. National Security Adviser McMaster calls the act “terrorism,” and Ivanka Trump condemns the supremacists in clear language, at the outset
    5. More attention is now focusing on the failure of the police to intervene and stand between the opposing groups. They appear to have “stood down,” much like the police in Baltimore.
      • We need to know why
      • We need to have a clear set of “best practices” for police in these dangerous confrontations

    Comment: It is shameful that the President did not speak out as clearly as his daughter. Yes, the left-wing and anarchist Antifada was there and did fight, but the main responsibility for violence belongs to the extreme right in this case. In other cases, when the responsibility belongs elsewhere, the President should condemn that, too, and do so in clear language.

    Today in Islamic terror: 18 killed in attack in West African state of Burkino-Faso, at restaurant frequented by foreigners (CNN)

     As part of UN sanctions, China bans North Korea iron, lead, coal imports (Washington Post)

    But China also warned the US:

    In an editorial, the state-owned China Daily newspaper said Trump was asking too much of China over North Korea….

    Trump’s “transactional approach to foreign affairs” was unhelpful, it said, while “politicizing trade will only exacerbate the country’s economic woes, and poison the overall China-U.S. relationship.” –Washington Post

    Comment: China is doing the minimum to avoid becoming the focus of international pressure, but not enough to really change North Korean policy.

     Ooooops! Next shoe drops in Google’s controversy over women in tech, and that shoe is polished with irony:

    Google’s international competition for computer coders–“Google Code Jam”–has all-male finalists for 14th year in row (Daily Caller)

    Google uses the event to identify candidates for potential employment, recruiting tech wizards from all over the world—from the Philippines and Japan, all the way over to Russia, Sweden, and across the ocean to Latin America and the United States….

    Every year, tens of thousands of would-be programming masters sign up for the competition—solving programming puzzles in record time. Only the best of the best make it to the final stage…..

    Based on merit alone, the Code Jam does not make any considerations to contestants’ race, gender, political affiliation, or social status. It’s a test of pure skill. –Daily Caller

    Comment: One of the great achievements of the Enlightenment was the shift in how people are selected for top jobs and prizes–away from status and caste (are you an aristocrat? a member of the dominant race or religion?) and toward merit-based selection.

    That achievement is now being challenged without intellectual clarity. That is, some favor affirmative action because it will “level the playing field” and so allow true merit to shine. Others think of it as a benefit that is owed to groups formerly discriminated again; that approach is inherently opposed to merit-based selection. So is retaining preferences well into a person’s career, by which time merit should have already been apparent.

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  • When the news breaks, take a break from TV

    Rule #1 during events like those in Charlottesville: do NOT watch TV for more than a few minutes at a time.

    To keep up, occasionally click on your favorite “breaking news” website.

    Depending on your tastes, that could be Drudge, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Associated Press.

    Of course, once they start interpreting the story, they’ll spin it in their familiar ways.

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    The current news from Charlottesville can be summarized in less than two minutes, tops, and the networks have 24 hours to fill. They will fill them with high drama, idiotic confrontations, and conjectures, mixed with hard reporting and intelligent commentary. How wild can the conjectures get? When CNN was covering the missing Malaysia airliner, they asked experts if extraterrestrials were to blame.

    Intentionally or not, the cable channels heighten viewers’ anxiety with flashing alerts and breathless reporting, following by a sincere look, a bite of the lip, and a calm, “Our thoughts and prayers go out…” So do the thoughts and prayers of the extraterrestrials, I’m guessing. For more on that, tune to CNN.

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    To show you how briefly the real news can be summarized, here is what we know now (as of 6:15 pm, August 12):
    1. White supremacy and neo-Nazi marchers descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park.
    2. Counter-marchers also showed up to protest the white-supremacy types. We don’t know what kinds of groups were involved in the counter-protest.
    3. The two groups clashed violently, despite a large presence of local and state police.
    4. A car deliberately accelerated into the counter-marchers, killing one immediately and leaving about two dozen more injured.
      • The car sped away, but the driver was soon captured. His name, motivation, and organizational connections have not been disclosed.
    5. A helicopter crashed nearby but details on that are still sketchy. Two people were killed
    6. That makes three people dead (so far), according to Virginia police.
    7. Donald Trump strongly condemned the violence, urging all sides to respect each other and avoid further violence.
      • Virginia’s state officials and those from Charlottesville issued similar statements, adding that the white nationalists should “go home.”
    8. Significantly, Pres. Trump failed to single out the White nationalists in his condemnation of the violence.
      • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) immediately tweet a criticism of the President, urging Trump to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

    That’s what we know so far. A newscaster could read it, with appropriate video playing in the background, in under two minutes.

    But they have hours to fill. Instead of filling it with serious and illuminating talk, they will fill it with repetition and, within a few hours, snarling political adversaries.

    Skip it and keep your blood pressure down.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, August 7

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

    China tells North Korea to “be smart” and stop testing its missiles and nuclear devices (Washington Post)

    US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson held out the possibility of direct talks with North Korea “when conditions are right.”

    China delivered frank advice to North Korea, its outcast neighbor, telling Pyongyang to make a “smart decision” and stop conducting missile launches and nuclear tests.

    The statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came on the heels of a U.N. Security Council decision to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and its exports, and it suggested that the American push to further isolate the regime of Kim Jong Un is reaping some dividends. But Wang also called on the United States to dial back the tension. –Washington Post

    Comment: If North Korea continues to test after China’s open statement, Xi and his government will lose face and be forced to react. Still, my guess is that China won’t put harsh pressure on North Korea because it fears the regime’s collapse. The only calculation that will change that? If Beijing thinks Japan could go nuclear or that the US will take military action.

    Baltimore’s community leaders proposed a “weekend without killing.” The city made it til Saturday night (Hot Air)

    Baltimore is on-track for another near-record number of killings this year.

    Unfortunately, the group organizing the ceasefire took to their social media pages to decry the violence but somehow couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the blame around a bit too far.

    “There is a war going on in Baltimore right now. We are experiencing genocide among our African-American males, both by the hands of the Police Department and from one another.” –quoted in Hot Air

    Baltimore’s City Paper reports 205 murders (as of August 2, 2017), about one per day.

    Hot Air’s reporter found only one involved a police shooting.

    And that guy was holding a foot-long knife to the throats of a one year old and a four year old when negotiations finally broke down and the cops took him out. –Hot Air

    Comment:  So, does the statement about a “genocide” by the police look accurate–or like blame-shifting or even incitement? Not a difficult call.

    University of Southern California in midst of a nasty scandal (Los Angeles Times)

    The case [involves] former medical school dean Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito. The [LA] Times reported last month that Puliafito, while leading USC’s Keck School of Medicine, partied with a circle of addicts, prostitutes and other criminals who said he used drugs with them, including on campus.

    The problem is compounded by the fact Puliafito’s behavior had been a subject of controversy for some time, as this headline indicates:

    Complaints of Drinking, Abusive Behavior Dogged USC Medical School Dean for Years–KTLA

    USC had reappointed Puliafito after those complaints five years ago, raising questions about the school’s administrative oversight.

    Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta (ABC News)

    Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives in a rented mobile home in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta.

    During a summer that feels like a sauna, the trailer’s air conditioner has conked out. Some nights, Allen and her five children find cooler accommodations with friends and relatives.

    Comment: The story is about Jonestown, Mississippi, about 15 miles from my hometown of Marks. The poverty in these small towns is grinding, and lives are hard. Otibehia Allen’s life, as it is described in the story, sounds like a modern version of Dickensian poverty.

    But there is something missing from the story, which focuses entirely on poverty, the Great Society programs, and the promises of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

    There is no interest at all in three “elephants in the room.”

    1. Why on earth would a 32-year-old single woman have five children? How can even the best-hearted parent hope to give them the guidance and support they need?
      • Who could manage that, even with lots of money? With hardly any money, how can even the most loving mother give these children the attention and direction they need?
      • Yet having five kids–and beginning to have them as a teenager–is simply taken as a “given” in this article. Nobody seems to be responsible for it. People are just victims.
    2. Why are things in our poorest communities is such bad shape all over the country after five decades of big-government programs designed in Washington to deal specifically with poverty, crime, unemployment, and poor education? The article doesn’t bother asking.
      • That question needs asking because these problems are as pervasive in Detroit as in the Delta. (See the article on Baltimore above).
    3. As heart-wrenching as stories about the Delta or Appalachia are, shouldn’t we be focused on getting people to adapt to a changing environment, to move to where jobs are growing, and to get the skills they need for those jobs?
      • Of course, it would be great if the jobs came to where people already lived. But that’s magical thinking. Gary, Indiana, was built when steel was produced in giant mills. The Mississippi Delta was populated when small farms needed lots of agricultural workers, and they needed to live near the farms because transportation was so bad. If cities can transform their economic base, as Pittsburgh and Chicago have, that’s great. But our focus needs to be on people, not places.
      • Unfortunately, nobody with five kids can move easily. Nobody who starts having multiple kids as a teenager is going to gain many job skills after that. It’s hard to even imagine solutions for people in these terrible situations.

    Please don’t mistake these tough questions for a hard heart. That poor mother and her five children deserve our sympathy. The kids, in particular, deserve our support, all the more so because it is hard to see how they can avoid being trapped themselves.

    But a sympathetic heart doesn’t mean a soft head. It doesn’t imply that well-intentioned policies lead to good results. They might. They might not.

    In America’s poorest areas, things will not get better by repeating the same failed policies, by refusing to confront the cycle of generation-after-generation remaining poor and uneducated, and then well-meaning people strutting with pride over how much we care.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, August 6

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

    UN bans key North Korean exports because of missile tests (Reuters)

    Could cut up to 1/3 of the state’s meager $3 billion export revenue.

    Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the UN, offered a weary, pessimistic assessment:

    We should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem. Not even close. The North Korean threat has not left us, it is rapidly growing more dangerous. –Amb. Nikki Haley to UN Security Council

    Meanwhile, China and Russia sharply criticized US deployment of anti-missile systems in South Korea.

    Related Story: US tells China it will be watching closely to see if Beijing actually executes the promised sanctions (Associated Press)

    Comment: This will only get more dangerous.

    Administration leakers should not be hard to catch, says Washington Post.

    The headline news has been Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepping up the number of investigations and saying that journalists who receive classified information should not be immune if lives are endangered (a questionable argument, in light of Supreme Court precedents).

    The Post, citing cyber-security experts, lists four steps in the investigations:

    1. Find a pool of suspects
    2. Shrink your pool using digital tools
    3. Subpoena and grab personal data
    4. Question and prosecute

    Comment: The key thing to notice about these leaks is that they are not whistle-blower leaks, designed to expose wrongdoing. They are designed either to damage the President or his administration or, alternatively, to win internal battles over policy. Neither is tolerable when the information is classified. The damage to the country should be obvious.

    Gang Warfare: Arch-rivals of MS-13, the Barrio-18 gang are equally lethal (Daily Mail)

    Barrio-18 was founded in Los Angeles and has now spread across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Central America. It has “an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 members across 20 US states and is linked to drugs, murder, kidnappings and other violent crime from Central America to Canada.”

    ◆◆ Two “Dumb Criminal” Stories so breathtaking in their stupidity, I have to include both

    Meth dealer walks into a bank with a $1 million dollar bill (fake, of course) and a deposit slip. What could possibly go wrong? (Daily Mail)

    Comment: Such a carefully thought-out plan, too. Where did he trip up?

     Anthony Thomas is an impressive co-winner of “perp of the day” (New York Daily News)

    Comment: “Does this mean I don’t get the job?”

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  • Detroit Mayoral Primary this Tuesday: 4 of 8 candidates are Convicted Felons

    In the first election since Detroit emerged from bankruptcy, it has fielded an impressive set of felons for the top office. (Detroit News)

    Three were charged with gun crimes and two for assault with intent to commit murder. Some of the offenses date back decades, the earliest to 1977. The most recent was in 2008. –Detroit News

    You might think that’s a negative. You are so, so wrong, says NAACP activist and political consultant, Greg Bowens.

    “Black marks on your record show you have lived a little and have overcome some challenges,” said Bowens. –Detroit News

    Comment: “I appreciate Mr. Bowens’ logic,” said a spokesmen for John Wayne Gacy. “John Wayne has overcome many more challenges than the other candidates.”

    At press time, Jeffrey Dahmer was unavailable for comment.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 2

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

    US investigating China’s unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property (New York Times)

    This is a broad effort, supported by Pres. Trump and led by the office of the US Trade Representative

    Comments:

    • China does have unfair trade practices; their economy is suffused with them
    • China steals intellectual property on a massive scale–and everyone knows it
    • Trump made China’s discriminatory trade practices a central campaign issue, with a focus on the harm these practices do to US workers
    • He held off any hardline against China in the hope Xi would get tough with North Korea. He probably knew it was a long shot, but he had to try. Once it was clear Beijing would not help in a serious way on North Korea, there was no reason to withhold a reassessment of bilateral economic relations with China.

    Corporate leaders will fear a trade war, understandably. They would prefer a bad-but-stable arrangement with Beijing, providing access to the Chinese market. Trump undoubtedly thinks he can get a better deal, with a focus on US jobs, and he understands how vulnerable China is. Its entire economy is based on open access to world markets without letting those market participants have equal access to China.

    Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes now a person of interest in unmasking investigation (Circa)

    This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.

    Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan have all been named in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the unmasking of Americans. A letter sent last week from Nunes to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggested that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections. –Sara Carter at Circa

    Comment: This investigation deserves a lot more media attention–and some serious investigative reporting. If the unmasking was unnecessary, that would be a problem but merely another example of power corrupting. If, however, the unmasking had partisan political aims, that would be a much more serious issue since it would be illegally transforming our foreign intelligence operations into a political instrument for one US administration to use against domestic opponents. If that is proven, it would be a fundamental blow to our constitutional governance.

     DOJ to sue universities that use affirmative action to discriminate against white applicants (New York Times)

    An internal announcement to the [DOJ’s] civil rights division seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” –New York Times

    Comment: The latest Supreme Court decision narrowly approved the continued use of race as one factor in admissions, but there are several other cases pending, so the weighting of the racial factor is still being litigated. Indeed, as the composition of the Court changes, the overall status of race-based admissions may change.

     Can this marriage be saved? Bride arrested after pulling gun from wedding dress and pointing it at the groom (New York Post)

    Comment: In a shocker, police report alcohol may have been involved.

    Today in Irony: Palestinian Authority chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who has opposed Israel at every turn, has asked to be put on Jewish State’s list for a lung transplant–and will, of course, be put on the list. (Jerusalem Post)

    Comment: Meanwhile, the PA continues to pay terrorists for killing Israelis.

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    Thanks to Clarice Feldman and Eduardo Vidal for the story on Affirmative Action

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 1

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

     Comment: What the Scaramucci ouster shows:

    • The initial appointment was another of Trump’s unforced errors
    • John Kelly has quickly asserted control over White House staff, obviously with Pres. Trump’s blessing
    • The White House desperately needs to assemble a stable, competent communications team (Rumors are that Kellyanne Conway could be the new Communications Director; she would be a good choice.)

    ⇒ More at a separate ZipDialog post here.

    If anybody can run this circus, it’s Kelly. The biggest question is whether he can get the Ringmaster to restrain himself. Conway did it for several months as campaign manager. Perhaps Conway and Kelly can do it again. But they are facing an impulsive, temperamental, thin-skinned boss.

     More night-time lights in North Korea show an improving economy, despite sanctions  (Fox)

    Comment: Blame China. They’ve played the US for years. Trump, James Mattis, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence have all declared that the time for talk–and waiting for China’s voluntary assistance–is over. Easier to say than to do.

    The question is whether any pressure on North Korea, either directly or via China, will stop them? China will only act if they fear a dreadful alternative. The only possible alternative short of war that they might fear is a nuclear-armed Japan. Moving in that direction is obviously fraught with dangers.  Before that, expect more anti-missile batteries, possible shoot-downs of North Korean launches, and economic sanctions against Chinese banks and trading companies.

     Pres. Trump himself dictated Jr’s misleading statement about meeting with Russian lawyer  (Washington Post)

    Comment: It’s hard to be stunned by this White House–or the leaks–but this qualifies. It is almost certainly not obstruction of justice in its own right, but it will undoubtedly attract the interest of Special Council Robert Mueller, who will look for a pattern.

     Venezuela sinking into a chaotic dictatorship, with economy in free fall  (Washington Post)

    Comment: The US is imposing more sanctions and could impose even more stringent ones. If so, expect the Iranians, Russians, and Chinese to step up and offer support in bids for more influence. The Iranians already have big-time connections there, forged under Chavez.

     Alabama inmates escaped using peanut butter. In jam after capture.  (Washington Post)

    They used peanut butter to renumber the jail cells and fool an inexperienced guard.

     Alphabet (Google) working on new way to store lots of energy; alternative to lithium-ion batteries (Bloomberg)

    They have a “skunk works” operation that tries to develop these long-shot projects. The idea here is to send energy to a heat pump, some of which will supercool antifreeze (or some alternative liquid), some of which will heat molten salt. When air from the separate hot and cold tanks are combined, they produce wind vortexes that spin turbines and generate electricity.

    Alphabet is working with prototype plants now and could be ready to work with a manufacturer soon to build a real-world version. The plants could range in size from as small as a garage to as large as a conventional electric plant.

    Besides scaling up, the researchers are looking for ways to build the plan with cheaper materials.

    Storage like this is crucial if renewable energy sources are to play a larger role since most renewables only produce power intermittently (when the sun is shining, the winds are blowing, etc.).

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