• ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, October 8

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

    Good News/Bad news on the Hurricane front: Nate missed highly-populated New Orleans, smacked the Mississippi Gulf Coast near Biloxi

    Comment: NOLA and surrounding areas are below sea levelso they need levees and pumping stations in the best of times. The pumps have not always been working properly but most of them seem to be okay this time around. Thank goodness.

    Here’s the report from the local NOLA paper:

    The people at FEMA must be thinking, “Texas. . . Florida . . . Puerto Rico . . . and now Mississippi.

    This is the Book of Job.”

    Pres. Trump calls Chuck Schumer and asks the Democrat to broker a healthcare deal (Washington Post)

    Frustrated by Republican inaction on health care, President Trump tweeted Saturday that he had reached out to the Senate Democratic leader in hopes of brokering a deal for a “great HealthCare Bill.”

    Trump said that he had called Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday to ask whether Democrats would work with him on health care — and Trump indicated that he had not been entirely rebuffed. –Washington Post

    Comment: What does a move like this tell us about Trump?

    1. He’s frustrated with Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and a “do nothing” Senate.
    2. He is transactional, not relational or ideological, on many issues. Healthcare is one.
      • When he’s against Trump, he’s “Crying Chuck.” Not this time, but just wait.
    3. He’s a deal maker who knows that you often need to keep pressure on both your allies and adversaries.
      • The pressure on the Republicans comes from this outreach to Schumer.
      • The pressure on the Democrats is that Trump is letting Obamacare meltdown.

    Violent Antifa thugs plan to deface Columbus statues on Columbus Day (PJ Media)

    Comment: Dean Vernon Wormer has a word for them:

     

    VP Pence leaves Indianapolis Colts game before it starts after SF 49ers take a knee during the national anthem (Indianapolis Star)

    Comment: I have said from the beginning that Trump picked a winning fight here.

    • First, most voters agree with him.
    • Second, all his base agrees with him.
    • Third, he attacked the NFL at a time it was on the ropes. He can take credit for the decline, some attributable to other issues (such as fans being troubled by player brain injuries).
    • Finally, protests like this cannot last forever. As they slowly ebb (because players think they’ve made their point or because their endorsements dry up), Trump can say “I won.”

    In any case, it’s smart politics for Trump to wrap himself in the flag while others symbolically stomp on it.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 4

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

    Pres. Trump heads to Las Vegas. If he’s wise, he’s stick to one role, that of “head of state.” This should be a journey of grief and remembrance, not politics.

    At times, the President is asked to speak for all his countrymen, to express our grief. Pres. Reagan set the standard with his speech after the Challenger Disaster. Actually, he did it twice, once from the Oval Office that night (the speech where he said the astronauts had waved goodbye to us this morning and “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God”) and then several days later, with a sad, powerful elegy at their memorial service (below).

    For a wonderful memory of that speech, here’s Peggy Noonan talking about it–and being asked by Reagan to write it. (Washington Post)

    Comment: Of course, there was nothing controversial about that event, as there is after each mass shooting.

    Each shooting raises important political issues, always about guns and sometimes about mental health, racism, and other issues.

    But, for the sake of the country, put aside the controversies for one more day, Mr. President.

    And do the same, Mr. Schumer, Ms. Clinton, and Ms. Pelosi.

    Then return to the fray.

    We know the Las Vegas killer planned meticulously, but we still don’t know his motive (Washington Post)

    Comment: The absence of a clearly-stated motive raises questions. The most important is whether there is anything to ISIS’ repeated statements that it was behind the shooting. Most experts discount that claim, but they also note it is unusual for ISIS to repeat its claims, as it has in this case.

    Today in hypocrisy:  Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), popular with pro-life movement, urged abortion in affair, texts suggest (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

    The congressman has been lauded by the Family Research Council, for his stance on abortion, as well as for family values, generally. He also has been endorsed by LifePAC, which opposes abortion rights, and is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, an affiliation that is often cited by his office. –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The FCC is considering Net Neutrality Again and asked for comments. They got plenty . . . from robots (Vice/Motherboard)

    The Trump administration and its embattled FCC commissioner are on a mission to roll back the pro-net neutrality rules approved during the Obama years, despite the fact that most Americans support those safeguards.

    But there is a large number of entities that do not: telecom companies, their lobbyists, and hordes of bots.

    Of all the more than 22 million comments submitted to the FCC website and through the agency’s API found that only 3,863,929 comments were “unique,” according to a new analysis by Gravwell, a data analytics company. The rest? A bunch of copy-pasted comments, most of them likely by automated astroturfing bots, almost all of them—curiously—against net neutrality.

    That means 80% Of all “Net Neutrality” comments were sent by bots, all on one side.

     Today in Islamist terror: France passes a tough, new counter-terrorism law

    • Anti-terror law described here at BBC. One feature: easier to search homes and jail individuals without judge’s approval
    • Terrorists tried and failed to detonate gasoline bombs in a wealthy Paris neighborhood; they were captured. According to The Telegraph:

    Judicial sources said the explosive device included two gas canisters inside the building in the affluent 16th arrondissement of western Paris and two outside, some of them doused with petrol and wired to connect to a mobile phone. It appears there were several unsuccessful attempts to detonate the canisters.

    The five arrested over the Paris bomb, men in their thirties, are known to authorities and one is on an intelligence services list of “radicalised” people, which includes the names of potential Islamist militants. –Telegraph

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    Hat Tip to

    Michael Lipson for the net-neutrality bots story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 14

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

    Dreamer Deal Possible: Chuck, Nancy and Donald agree to work on deal to avoid deportations (Washington Post)

    The border wall is not included.

    Democratic leaders announced late Wednesday that they agreed with President Trump to pursue a legislative deal that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and enact border security measures that don’t include building a physical wall. –Washington Post

    Republican leaders are on the outside, looking in.

    And some of Trump’s base is furious.

    In a sign of the potential trouble for the president, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an immigration hard-liner and early Trump supporter, wrote that if reports of a potential immigration deal are accurate, the president’s “base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.” –Washington Post

    Post-Irma tragedy: Eight patients died in south Florida nursing home without power during sweltering heat (Orlando Sun-Sentinel)

    Police have launched an investigation.

    Comment: One larger policy issue: Why doesn’t Florida require nursing homes to have generators?

    The Sun-Sentinel reports that 150 nursing homes (out of 700 in the state) are still without power.

    North Korea threats to reduce US to “ashes and darkness” and “sink Japan” (Reuters)

    Regional tensions have risen markedly since the reclusive North conducted its sixth, and by far its most powerful, nuclear test on Sept. 3.

    The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on a U.S.-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday in response, banning North Korea’s textile exports that are the second largest only to coal and mineral, and capping fuel supplies.

    The North reacted to the latest action by the Security Council, which had the backing of veto-holding China and Russia, by reiterating threats to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea. –Reuters

    Comment: Meanwhile, there are reports North Korea is preparing another nuclear test.

    US News and World Report College Rankings

    Familiar names, great schools. They compete hard against each other and are not just tops in the US, they are tops in the world (along with Oxford and Cambridge)

    Two Comments: First, students can get a great education at many schools. The important thing is to find one that “fits.” Fit depends on your needs, your interests, and your personality, as well as the school’s strengths and weaknesses and the niches it provides for students.

    Second, I don’t see how you can say Harvard ranks above or below, say, Stanford or Chicago. I think you can say that some schools rank in the very top-tier and others are a half-step back. Even that depends on whether you are interested in biology or French literature.

    You knew it was coming: CEO of Equifax called to testify before Congress (The Hill)

    Prediction: Kabuki Theater. The CEO will be contrite, the Congressmen angry.

    The CEO will say his company takes this very seriously, is really working on these problems, and will help those affected.

    The Representatives will posture for the cameras, expressing the public’s genuine anger.

    Meanwhile, this extraordinary piece of news about Equifax’s internal security:

     

    Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduces bill to make it easier to conduct medical marijuana research (The Verge)

    The Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017 would streamline the process for approving research and increase the national marijuana quota for medical and scientific research. Marijuana has been shown to have potential health benefits such as treating seizures and managing pain. –The Verge

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Mike Lipson for the Equifax BBC story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 6

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

    ◆ Hurricane Irma, with 185 mph winds, predicted to turn due north.

    Forecasts show it moving up Florida’s heavily-populated East Coast.

    Evacuations expected soon

    The company that commissioned the unverified Trump-Russia dossier is stonewalling Senate investigators (Fox News)

    The company, Fusion GPS, has no attorney-client privilege but it is simply giving the committee thousands of blank pages.

    Comment: Delay, delay, delay and hope the Senate gets tired of the investigation. It won’t. They will threatened contempt, which Sessions’ DOJ, unlike Holder’s, will take to court.

    Trump’s 6-month pause on DACA expiration leaves everything in Congress’ hands (Washington Post)

    The Democrats are united, so far. The Republicans are split, naturally.

    Comment: Don’t know if the D’s will stick together if funding the wall is part of the ultimate deal.

    Don’t know if the Congress can act on this at all.

    If they don’t, it will be a problem for Pres. Trump to simply extend DACA because the original act by Pres. Obama won’t pass constitutional muster (as Obama himself noted for years before he actually did it).

    Trump sides with D’s on debt ceiling, throwing R plans into chaos (Washington Post)

    Wants three-month extension plus Harvey relief, agreeing with Schumer and Pelosi, just as Ryan was panning the idea.

    US now knows the name of North Korea’s top military scientist, heading Kim’s programs (Washington Post)

    Comment: That doesn’t matter unless they have a way to “neutralize” him. Meanwhile, he’ll be living underground.

    How local housing restrictions strangle the US economy. Op-ed in the NYT, of all places

    If you live in a coastal city like New York, Boston or San Francisco, you know that the cost of housing has skyrocketed. This housing crisis did not happen by chance: Increasingly restrictive land-use regulations in the last half-century contributed to it.

    But what appears to be several local housing crises is actually a much more alarming national crisis: Land-use restrictions are a significant drag on economic growth in the United States. –Chang-Tai Hsieh and Enrico Moretti, op-ed in the NYT

    Comment: So obvious, even the NYT editorial page noticed, perhaps because New York City is one of the worst cities for housing restrictions.

    Uncertain if they will ever discover which political party controls all those cities with heavy restrictions.

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  • Dead: Two More Republican Senators says “No” to the Revised Healthcare bill

    This evening’s declarations by Utah’s Mike Lee and Kansas’ Jerry Moran, plus earlier statements by Maine’s Susan Collins and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, means there are four declared “no” votes. (Brief story here in the Washington Post.)

    With only 52 Republicans in the Senate and all Democrats and independents voting “no,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot get to the minimum 50 he needs.

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    What happens now?

    The big questions now:

    • What happens to the American health insurance system, which is now melting down under the weight of Obamacare’s malfunctions and heavy subsidies?
    • What kind of patchwork reforms will be put in place this year?
      • Democrats will want a huge say, but rank-and-file Republicans won’t like that and may try to block the Democrats’ proposals.
    • Who pays the political price for this fiasco?
      • Who is hurt more politically? The Democrats by the Obamacare mess they inflicted on the nation? Or the Republicans by their failure to fulfill their repeated promise to repeal and replace it?
      • What happens to the split between moderate Democrats and progressive single-payer advocates?
      • What happens to the split between modern Republicans and more conservative legislators who want to roll back entitlements?
  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, July 8

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

     The main stories come out of the G20 meetings in Hamburg.

    • Anti-capitalist riots in the street by extreme left and anarchists
      • Comment: Idiots with nihilist agenda
    • Trump has very long 1-on-1 with Putin
      • Full range of issues, beyond US election meddling, with focus on Syrian cease-fire and division of territory there after ISIS defeat
    • Trump has China’s Xi on schedule on 1-on-1 today
      • North Korea is top of the agenda, of course, but also trade
    • Ivanka briefly sits in for Pres at G20 meeting on Africa alongside world leaders  (Washington Post) (Comment: A nothingburger; still, it should have been the Sec. of State sitting there)

    Comment: We won’t know the results (as opposed to the agendas) of the Putin and Xi meetings until the effects on the ground are seen, beginning next week. The fact that Putin and Trump met without advisors is interesting, too. It indicates how serious the leaks are. The US cannot trust anybody to be in room.

    Comment on Silences at G20: This was supposed to be a showcase for German leader, Angela Merkel. She has been overshadowed by Putin, Xi, Trump, and rioters. Second, we have heard little so far about the shared challenges of Islamic terrorism and vast immigration flows from North Africa and the Middle East.

     US B1 bombers fly over South Korea as heads-up to North Korea after its ICBM test  (CNN)

    Comment: The signal is “the US can easily can incinerate you.” The problem is, if we launch a military attack, the North Koreans can kill large numbers in Seoul. Moreover, the Chinese might come in to prevent a Korea unified under American leadership.

    There are no good US options here. My guess is that the US starts to up financial sanctions on all North Korean trading partners, including Chinese banks.

     Venezuela’s top opposition leader released from prison to house arrest  (CNN)

    Comment: The country is tottering toward civil war, and oppo leader Leopoldo Lopez is a threat to the regime. The surprise here is that he did not die in prison.

     Chuck Schumer skewers Rex Tillerson over Russian meddling in US election  (The Hill)

    “For Secretary Tillerson to say that this issue will remain unresolved is disgraceful,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “To give equal credence to the findings of the American Intelligence Community and the assertion by Mr. Putin is a grave dereliction of duty and will only encourage Russia to further interfere in our elections in the future.” –The Hill

    Comment: Schumer is correct. This issue is not “unresolved.” His base loves it; it reinforces their view that Trump is illegitimate. But voters are interested in forward-looking solutions to real problems in the economy, foreign policy, etc. Schumer knows that, of course, but he has to toss red meat to the base. 

     Morgan Stanley: Renewables will be the cheapest power source within three years (Business Insider)

    Numerous key markets recently reached an inflection point where renewables have become the cheapest form of new power generation.

    A dynamic we see spreading to nearly every country we cover by 2020. The price of solar panels has fallen 50% in less than two years (2016-17). –Morgan Stanley via Business Insider

     K-12 Education: Betsy DeVos takes hard line on enforcing federal laws, surprising states who thought she would support local control (New York Times)

    The basic issue is an Obama-era law, replacing No Child Left Behind, that requires “ambitious” educational goals to meet federal standards. How much latitude will the Washington’s Dept. of Ed. give states to determine for themselves what it “ambitious”?

    “It is mind-boggling that the department could decide that it’s going to challenge them on what’s ambitious,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the conservative-leaning Thomas B. Fordham Institute, who worked in the Education Department under President George W. Bush. He called the letter “directly in opposition to the rhetoric and the promises of DeVos.” –quoted in New York Times

    Comment: Conservatives as well as liberals are concerned about this issue. They weren’t surprised by Washington’s heavy hand under Obama; they don’t expect it under DeVos and fear they may be getting it.

    Alternative possibilities are that

    • Lower-level officials did this without DeVos’ approval (the person who wrote it is a Democratic advocate for charter schools, appointed by DeVos)
    • The Dept. is actually enforcing the law, as written, until Congress rewrites it

    José Luis Cuevas, a Dark Master of Mexican Art, Dies at 83 (New York Times)

    Comment: He was continually greeted by folks at the bar singing: 

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  • Democrats Latest Strategy on Repeal-and-Replace: Shut Down the Entire Senate

    To show they are grumpy about the Republicans’ negotiations to repeal-and-replace ObamaCare, the Democrats have a new idea.

    They plan to halt all business in the Senate, even the most routine measures.

    Those normally pass unanimously without objection.

    That is what CNN is reporting.

    Senate Democrats will move to bring the chamber to a halt Monday night to protest the Republicans’ closed-door process to gut Obamacare in the coming days, according to a senior Democratic aide.

    Democrats plan to object to routine requests to let the chamber operate — whether it’s scheduling votes or allowing committees to meet for extended hearings — in a move aimed at escalating the fight over health care. –CNN

    CNN reports the Democratic base is enthusiastic about the strategy.

    It is not clear if the Democrats plan to continue the strategy after Monday’s protest.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Comment: Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Steyer might like it, but ordinary people won’t.

    This is a temper tantrum wearing the thin guise of political strategy.

    The correct allegation is that the Republican Senators are doing this behind closed doors.

    The Republicans rightly respond that the Democrats have said they won’t agree to anything if it repeals and replaces Obamacare.

    So, Republicans figure, if we can’t get their votes, why tell them in advance what we are doing?

     

  • The “Comey firing” story is going according to script: A comment

    ◆ The Partisans are saying exactly what you expect them to say

    • The Democrats are calling the firing Nixonian, an obstruction of justice because, they say, it was designed to block the Russian investigation.
    • The Republicans are saying that the FBI director’s appointment is within the President’s responsibilities and that Comey’s immediate boss at the Dept. of Justice, a highly-regarded, non-political attorney, lacked confidence in him.

    • The Republicans are stressing the role of Rod Rosenstein, as I expected. Rosenstein memo to his superiors clearly says he lacked confidence in Comey, who, he says, not only made serious mistakes (for which the Democrats had lacerated him) but was still saying he did nothing wrong. By failing to acknowledge his mistakes and learn from them, he raises the likelihood that he will keep making them.
    • The memo, plus news that Trump was frustrated with the continuing Russia investigation (d’uh!), are among the few nuggets of real news since the initial story broke.
    • I explain the basic logic of the two parties’ positions in a previous post here.

    The Democrats are clearly on the offensive, but they have a problem. You cannot coverup a crime–which is essentially their charge against Trump–unless there is a crime.

    So far, there is simply no evidence of such a crime involving Trump or his campaign. Yes, there is a serious investigation into Michael Flynn and perhaps into others, and, yes, the Russians meddled in our election, but so far there is nothing to suggest Trump collaborated with the Russians. (Related story: The Senate committee investigating the Russia issue has ordered Flynn to turn over relevant papers after he failed to do so voluntarily. BBC)

    The Democrats’ call for a special independent counsel will fail unless they can come up with some evidence to support their basic allegation.

    Meanwhile, Trump absolutely must appoint a top-notch, apolitical, experienced law enforcement leader to the FBI. The best names I have heard are Bill Bratton and Ray Kelly, people who have run large police departments very successfully.

    That appointment is not only crucial for Trump politically. It is crucial for the country, which wants to restore confidence in the justice system. And it will be crucial down the line for Trump, who needs to be able to say that the Russia connection was bunk and that a serious FBI inquiry proves it. If the FBI leader doesn’t pass the tests for neutrality and competence, Trump won’t be able to say that.

    ◆ Related story: In the meantime, Trump has hung a nickname on Schumer: “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer” (The Hill) Before deriding Trump’s childishness, remember that he has a real knack for picking nicknames that highlight an opponent’s vulnerability. They stick and they work–not always, but mostly. Jeb Bush was low energy. Marco Rubio did seem too little in the campaign. Hillary was and is corrupt. The Schumer nickname highlights his whining negativity–and Trump could make it stick.