• 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 Monday, October 2: Key Elements of Las Vegas Massacre

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

    ◆ The machine-gun massacre in Las Vegas dominates our thoughts–and news coverage

    It is remarkable how a few sad points encapsulate so many hours of heartbreaking TV coverage

    • 58 dead, so far
    • Over 500 injured, many seriously, so death toll may rise
    • Single gunman, perched on 32nd floor of hotel, had 10 guns in room
    • Shot into outdoor country-music festival
    • No link to international terror groups
      • Some groups did make false claims that they were responsible
    • Gunman was retired Nevada resident, no criminal history, lived in retirement community
    • Episode lasted 72 minutes
    • Gunman killed himself
    • Pres. Trump will travel to Las Vegas later in the week

    The media coverage is intense, naturally.

    The best coverage of the event itself is always a good local paper, in this case the Las Vegas Sun.

    Comment: The coverage will soon move in its predictable arc:

    • Who was the gunman?
    • What about the families of the fallen?
    • And, of course, “Gun Control” versus “Second Amendment.”

    This is the type of story we’ll see about the gunman: “Led a quiet life,” neighbors never suspected, etc. (Washington Post)

    The main goal is to explore what motivations–psychological or political–drove him to do this.

    Politically, the episode will also follow a predictable arc. In this case, the gun control advocates raised the issue immediately, led by Pelosi and Hillary. Of course, these cleavages are heavily correlated with party affiliation, now that there are so few Democrats from the south and rural districts.

    The early political calls after this massacre are worth noting because, in the past, the gun-control side often waited a day or two. Why the difference now? Probably because so many massacres have dulled the political motive to “wait a decent interval to mourn” and weakened the counter-argument that “now, when people are grieving, is not the right time to raise this issue.” (The same logic applies to terrorist events. As soon as we know whether it was actually a terrorist attack, people begin making political points. In the past, they often waited a few days.)

    In this case, gun-control advocates want to raise the issue immediately because they know it is very hard for their opponents to make persuasive arguments. Usually, the most effective NRA-type argument is that “even if we did everything you gun-control advocates want, it wouldn’t have stopped this shooting.”

    ◆ All other news pales as the terrible aftermath unfolds

     Here’s a small tidbit to watch for: It’s a good time to dump bad news for government agencies or corporations 

    They know people are preoccupied so fewer will notice. So, “Ooops, we polluted your river” is better disclosed now than next Monday.

    It’s the “Friday afternoon news dump” on steroids.

    So, keep an eye out.

     

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  • 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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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, August 15

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

    The aftershocks of Charlottesville continue

    The main story is the fallout from Pres. Trump’s initial failure to single out the instigators of the fatal attack. He has since issued a full-throated condemnation of the white nationalists, but not until he incurred serious political damage.

    The Washington Post makes an important point: “Turmoil in Virginia touches a nerve across the country

     Kim Jong Un backs down from his threat to Guam.  (Story here)

    Comment: The Chinese probably told him he went too far, but we don’t know the next shoe to fall. Kim has not been seen recently, which may indicate another test is near. In any case, the main problem remains, and there is no indication yet that China intends to resolve it.

    Henry Kissinger, writing an op-ed in the WSJ over the weekend, says the only solution lies in the US and China working out a joint plan to deal with North Korea. The incentive for China is that North Korea’s provocative behavior could lead to nuclear proliferation in the region, which would be very bad for China. (Op-ed in WSJ, subscription)

    Iran announces that it could restart its nuclear program within hours if the US pulls out of the agreement (BBC)

    Comment: Another problem with pulling out: Obama front-loaded all the benefits–ace negotiators, eh?–so the Iranians have already received them.

    Democratic Party flailing: Four-state tour to reconnect with workers (New York Times)

    The need for the Democratic Party and the labor movement to take stock of their historically close alliance became clear after November’s election when Hillary Clinton’s support among union voters declined by 7 percentage points from 2012 when former President Barack Obama was re-elected.

    For months, Democrats have been grappling with how to reconnect with the union and working class vote they once considered their base, prompting former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lament after the election that “my party did not talk about what it always stood for.” –New York Times

    Comment: For the party of Nancy Pelosi, Tom Steyer, and Keith Ellison to connect with workers, they will need to hire an anthropologist.

    China’s economy continues to cool as Trump Administration looks into its unfair trade practices (US News and World Report)

    Comment: The investigation could lead to tariffs or other punishment. As for Chinese economic performance, it is hard to assess because no serious economist trusts Beijing’s official data.

    Today in teaching

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, June 22

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

     Trump proposes major change in immigration policy, barring new immigrants from public aid for 5 years  (Fox News)

    Trump’s proposal would build on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which allows federal authorities to deport immigrants who become public dependents within five years of their arrival. Many of that law’s provisions were rolled back during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, but Trump’s proposal would make more categories of federal benefits off-limits to immigrants.

    Currently,states typically have the authority to determine eligibility for local public assistance programs. –Fox News

    Those who are here on non-immigrant visas or who are not here legally are already barred in most cases.

    The White House is citing studies that show half the families headed by new immigrants are on welfare, compared to 30 percent of non-immigrant families.

    Comment: Expect a firestorm.

     The Banana Republic of Illinois. The Wall Street Journal writes a withering editorial: “The Illinois Capitulation: Gov. Bruce Rauner cries uncle on taxes and economic reform” (WSJ subscription)

    My friend, Joe Morris, quotes that editorial, writing that Rauner decided to

    accede to Democratic legislators’ demands that he “accept a four-year increase in the flat state income tax to 4.95% from the current 3.75%, expand the sales tax and implement a cable and satellite TV tax” is “a political defeat by any definition since Mr. Rauner campaigned on lowering the income tax to 3%, not on restoring the rate close to what it was under the last Democratic Governor” but that “the citizens of Illinois will suffer the most.” –Joe Morris, quoting the WSJ editorial

    Comment: Rauner won a rare Republican victory in Illinois by promising to “shake up Springfield,” as his campaign slogan had it. Instead, Springfield, controlled by Boss Mike Madigan, shook him up. It’s hard to see how Rauner can win reelection against strong Democratic contenders, who are salivating.

     Remembering a Federal judge who blazed a trail for women: Phyllis Kravitch  (New York Times)

    Broke barriers in Georgia in the 1940s and became the third woman on the US Court of Appeals in the 1979.

    Judge Kravitch embarked on her legal career in Savannah, Ga., her hometown, in 1944, more than a decade before women were allowed to sit on juries in the state. Though she had graduated second in her law school class at the University of Pennsylvania, she said in an interview with the American Bar Association in 2013, she was turned down when she applied for a clerkship with a justice of the United States Supreme Court. He told her that no woman had ever clerked at the court, she recalled, and that he did not want to break with precedent.

    She was also turned down for jobs at one law firm after another, at least one of which explicitly refused to hire Jews. So she returned to Savannah to practice law with her father, Aaron, who represented black and indigent clients struggling to find legal counsel. –New York Times

     Nancy Pelosi takes the heat for Democratic loss in Georgia special election  (Washington Post)

    Comment: ZipDialog made the same point as soon as the election results were in. Pelosi was an albatross for the local candidate. She is for every House Democrat outside the coasts and college towns.

    But the WaPo and others who focus on Nancy and Chuck miss the larger point. The Democrats have no positive message. Their negative message is simple: Trump bad.

    Bernie had an affirmative message. It was unrealistic, unaffordable, and, if it were ever adopted, catastrophic. But Hillary had no message, and neither does the national party. They are running on the charred remains of social programs begun by FDR and LBJ, plus identity politics.

     Black Lives Matter try to block a Gay Pride Parade in Columbus, OH. Virtually no media coverage despite arrests and injured police.  (ABC6 in Ohio) PJ Media and Heat Street also reported it. No one else.

    BLM was protesting a police shooting in another town. Unclear why they decided to use that issue to block a gay parade in Ohio.

    Comment: Why does the story matter? Because the left makes a big, big deal out of “intersectionality,” which means all progressive groups must support each other. That’s an old-fashioned strategy (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours), dressed up in fancy words. But BLM’s action shows its limits. The left knows it cannot easily criticize them (because they would be called the worst word in the lexicon); BLM knows that and exploits it.  

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for Wall Street Journal editorial on Illinois
    ◆ A friend for the Columbus, Ohio, Gay pride versus BLM protest

     

  • Nancy Pelosi Takes another Deep Dive into the Shallow End

    We need more and more and more investigations, says Minority Leader Pelosi. Here’s how she justifies her clarion call, according to The Hill

    While calling [newly-appointed Special Counsel Robert] Mueller a “respected public servant of the highest integrity, [he] will still be in the chain of command under the Trump-appointed leadership of the Justice Department,” Pelosi said. “He cannot take the place of a truly independent, outside commission that is completely free from the Trump Administration’s meddling.” –The Hill

    Comment: Her idea of an independent commission would have been good–earlier. I supported it myself in the aftermath of the election since we need to understand how Russia meddled here and in Europe so we can deter future attempts.

    But that moment faded, not because the need for inquiry went away but because it is already being done.

    • There are several serious investigations underway,
    • The Senate investigation is moving forward in a bipartisan way,
    • Robert Mueller will lead another one that has won bipartisan support, and
    • Rod Rosenstein is in place at DOJ (again with bipartisan support) to oversee the FBI as it moves forward. 

    Nancy Pelosi wants something that is no longer needed and justifies it with a rationale no one believes.

    I’m not sure any of these overlapping investigations will be forward-looking, developing ways to limit future meddling. That’s unfortunate, but Nancy’s plan wouldn’t address that problem, either.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, May 1. . . May Day! May Day!

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     Government to stay open through September, thanks to bipartisan agreement over a Continuing Resolution (Washington Post)

    The bipartisan agreement includes policy victories for Democrats, whose votes will be necessary to pass the measure in the Senate, as well as $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security requested by Republican leaders in Congress. –Washington Post

    Comment: Rare agreement–on anything.

     Bret Stephens’s first NYT column just ran. It said some climate science findings are clear-cut, others less so. HERETIC ALERT!!! NYT readers immediately began cancelling their subscriptions.

    You can agree or disagree with Bret’s views, which are balanced and presented with supporting data. But heads exploded all over Cambridge, Berkeley, Ann Arbor, and the Upper West Side.

    Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.

    By now I can almost hear the heads exploding. . . .

    Let me put it another way. Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.

    None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. –Bret Stephens in the NYT

    For this kind of wild-and-crazy talk, CNN reports “NYT subscribers dropping paper over climate column” Here’s just one example:

    Comment: Who says religion is dead? The Times’ readers reaction is roughly the same as citizens in Calvin’s Geneva if you had said, “Let’s discuss whether to keep one or two Saints’ Days.” 

     The impact of ISIS terror attacks on Europe’s “state of mind”  (Dr. Tsilla Hersco at Begin-Sadat Center, Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel)

    EU now favors discreet cooperation with Israel to combat terror, while still opposing Israel’s own measures to combat Islamic terrorism

    The appalling terrorist assaults perpetrated by ISIS in Europe have led to significant changes in the European state of mind. By exposing the vulnerability of EU state borders, they have prompted rudimentary initiatives to secure those borders and increase counter-terror cooperation among EU member states, while also boosting the popularity of far-right parties.

    The attacks have given rise to a discreet cooperation between EU member states and Israel in dealing with the terrorist threat, but have not prompted the EU to change its critical position regarding Israel’s defensive measures against Palestinian terror. The moral double standard of the EU on this issue might undermine its own fight against Islamist terrorism. –Dr. Tsilla Hersco at BESA Center

     Nancy Pelosi to face primary opponent associated with Bernie Sanders  (The Observers) Her adversary, Stephen Jaffe, is a prominent SF lawyer, specializing in discrimination, sexual harassment, and whistleblowers.

    Comment: Pelosi will be wading in campaign cash, but she won’t be able to run on a record of recent achievements. There aren’t any.

    Larger issue: The prospect of being “primaried” from the left could become a major obstacle for any Democrats who want to work with Trump, and vice versa. My guess is that it already affected Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who voted to filibuster Neil Gorsuch even though Trump easily won Missouri.

     Here are two words I’ve never seen before in one sentence: “accordion heartthrob” But that is the NYT headline for Dick Contino’s obituary. His career in B-Movies also inspired novel by James Ellroy (who also wrote L.A. Confidential).

     Sure hope he likes irony: Chicago Police Chief’s SUV broken into during a ‘crime of opportunity’  (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: Imagine, if you will, breaking into Al Capone’s car by accident. What’s the over/under on how long you live? One day?

    In today’s Chicago, what’s the likelihood they’ll even find the perps?

     Macron (leading Le Pen in the French election runoff) is right about this. It’s not just France that will want out if the EU if it doesn’t reform. BBC article here.

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    Hat tip to Ed Vidal for the CNN story about NYT cancellations.