• Ratings are up: Media companies benefit from Trump’s fight with them. But this fight is NOT good for democracy

    Drudge features this article from CNBC:

    Trump’s ‘fake news’ fight has helped media ratings and readership

    President Donald Trump’s fight against the media has led to higher than usual ratings even after the election.

    Surprise firings, criminal investigations and vague statements that have world leaders scratching their heads has turned President Donald Trump’s administration into political theater.

    And the media – one of Trump’s favorite go-to targets- is reaping the benefits. Experts expected media ratings to normalize after the election when the NFL and other popular TV shows started to air. That’s clearly not the case.

    –CNBC

    The article goes on to cite major increases in readership in some of Trump’s frequent targets, such as the New York Times and Washington Post.

    The readership and viewership may be up, but the damage to our trust in an unbiased media is down.

    That’s a terrible thing for democracy.

    Whether you think the responsibility for that is the media’s bias, Trump’s unfair attacks, or some mix of the two, the damage itself is serious.

  • No Apologies: Nikki Haley Explains Why the US Moved Its Embassy to Jerusalem

    In one of those useless exercises the UN seems to enjoy, its members forced a Security Council debate and vote to condemn Pres. Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to the city Israel calls its capital, Jerusalem.

    The US vetoed the resolution. Since everyone knew in advance it would do so, the debate was staged to smear the US and Israel. It follows a recent move by another UN body to remove any Jewish references to locations within Israel. They will be called only by their Arabic names, even if they are exclusively Jewish Holy Sites.  As far as the UN is concerned, it’s a “Judenfrei zone.”

    As ZipDialog has noted previously, the embassy move (which is actually a gradual process) did not prejudge the US position on the location of a future Palestinian state, and the US said so.

    The Palestinians did not accept that explanation–their position is flatly rejectionist–but their attempt to spark another uprising fizzled. Still, it’s the thought that counts.

    It is also worth noting that US decision was divisive along party lines. It had complete support among Republicans, very little among Democrats (though their leaders generally remained low profile), and fairly broad opposition among US diplomats and foreign-policy types, many of whom predicted disaster. Turkey and Iran are trying their hardest to encourage such an uprising, so far without luck.

    The move itself was of a piece with several other Trump decisions that (a) fulfill clear campaign promises, and (b) revisit long-standing US policies that he thinks have failed to produce results.

    This Security Council debate gave US Ambassador Nikki Haley a chance to show that she is cut from the same cloth as Ambassadors Pat Moynihan and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, not Susan Rice and Samantha Power.

    Here are a couple of Amb. Haley’s tweets about that debate and the US position, which she forcefully articulated.

    The phrase, “taking names,” recalls those previous ambassadors, who said that voting against US interests would not be a freebie. Most administrations take the “no worries” attitude. Not this administration. One gets the clear impression that Haley is more in tune with the White House and NSC than with Rex Tillerson and the State Department.

     

  • Memo to Trump: Fire your lawyer. He’s clueless when he says the President cannot obstruct justice

    When your lawyer says, “The President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer,” (Axios), here’s a quick tip:

    Fire him immediately. Maybe sooner.

    Your personal lawyer, John Dowd, is wrong thrice over.

    First, he’s wrong about the law (say I, as a non-lawyer). The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in a county, but that doesn’t mean he can legally tear up his parking tickets. The point is that the law should apply equally. It should apply equally to citizens, regardless of race, creed, and so on. And it should apply to government officials as much as it applies to the rest of us.

    Second, he’s wrong about the politics, as the ghost of Archibald Cox will remind you. When the public and their elected representatives think the President is obstructing justice, they will seriously consider the remedy offered by the Constitution.

    Third, even if Dowd thinks the president cannot obstruct, he is wrong to say it out loud. The blowback will be fierce. See item #2.

    In the meantime, I’d check to see if Dowd is working for FusionGPS or the Podesta Group.

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 20

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

    Merkel’s Troubles–and Germany’s After her narrow election win, she cannot form a coalition government. Prefers new election (Deutsche Welle, in English)

    The coalition problem was that she needed support from the leftist Greens and pro-market Free Democrats.

    She couldn’t find common ground between them.

    Comment: Her larger problem is that she’s past her “sell-by” date and has a tin-ear for ordinary Germans’ disgust with open borders, which have led to millions of immigrants and serious problems with unassimilated Muslim populations.

     Charles Manson dead at 83. Remembering his victims: Rich, famous, fringe, and random (Los Angeles Times)

    Comment: Unspeakable evil–with the power to persuade others to join his malign fantasy.

    US designates North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism (Politico)

    Iran, Sudan, and Syria are already on the list. It had been placed on the list in 1988 and removed by George W. Bush in 2008 as a carrot during failed nuclear negotiations.

    “This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.

    Should have happened years ago. –Pres. Trump (quote at Reuters, link here)

    Comment: The big question remains: Will China adhere to US-imposed sanctions or call our bluff by cheating on them?

     Sen. Franken: Second woman accuses of “inappropriate touching” (New York Times)

    He won’t resign, says his hometown paper, the Star-Tribune.

     Roy Moore: Obstinate denials despite mounting evidence, stays in the race

    Comment: His refusal to withdraw leaves Senate Republicans in a world of hurt.

    Meanwhile, Moore received support at a press conference, featuring women who have worked with him.

    Unfortunately, all these women have the same drawback. They are adults.

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, November 8

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

    ◆ Democrats win big in off-year elections. The most important: a surprisingly large victory in the Virginia Governor’s race

    Comment: NJ returning to a Democratic governor is not surprising. In Virginia, which is shifting from purple to a blue state because of the DC suburbs, the surprise is not Ralph Northam’s win but his 9-point margin over a good Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie.

    Northam’s margin tells me Democrats are motivated, even after a divisive primary. Hillary won Virginia by 5 points. Down-ballot Democrats are also doing very well.

    President Trump’s begins his biggest stop: Beijing

    There are three major issues on the table: North Korea, China’s expansion in the South China Sea, and China’s asymmetrical trade relations with the US.

    Comment: More on this stop as news emerges.

    Texas Mass Killing: “Botched Air Force handling of Texas shooter’s criminal history may be ‘systemic’ issue” (Fox News)

    The 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report analyzed a sample of 1,102 convictions, including felonies, handled in the military court system and found the Navy, Air Force and Marines failed to send criminal history or fingerprint data to the FBI in about 30 percent of them. –Fox News

    Ratcheting up the financial sanctions on Chinese banks doing business with North Korea (Reuters)

    Senate Finance Committee votes unanimously on these sanctions, just as Pres. Trump lands in Beijing.

    The U.S. Senate Banking Committee unanimously backed new sanctions targeting Chinese banks that do business with North Korea on Tuesday, just before President Donald Trump visits Beijing for the first time since taking office….

    Washington so far has largely held off on imposing new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.–Reuters

    ◆ Curiouser and Curiouser: Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr also met with FusionGPS before and after the Trump Tower meeting (Fox News)

    The story about Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, comes from one of our best investigative reporters, Catherine Herridge.

    The co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the unverified Trump dossier, met with a Russian lawyer before and after a key meeting she had last year with Trump’s son, Fox News has learned. The contacts shed new light on how closely tied the firm was to Russian interests, at a time when it was financing research to discredit then-candidate Donald Trump….

    Simpson and Fusion GPS were hired by BakerHostetler, which represented Russian firm Prevezon through Veselnitskaya. –Catherine Herridge for Fox News

    Comment: So, Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for this Russian firm and the Clinton campaign. That could be an innocent coincidence . . . or it could lead to some “synergies.”  So far, Fusion GPS has taken the 5th before Congressional investigative committees and fiercely resisted subpoenas for any records of their financial transactions.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . ”

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, November 7

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

    ◆ Trump in South Korea: What’s on the agenda? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues. The goal is to get South Korea’s leftist president to side more closely with the US, less with China.

    A separate ZipDialog post, with more analysis, is here.

    Texas Church Massacre: what we know

    From police reports, three basic facts are emerging:

    • The shooter was angry, uncontrolled, and mentally unstable
    • Several different bureaucracies knew about the problems–the US military, a mental institution from which he escaped, and local officials who knew about violence and cruelty
    • The bureaucracies did not inform each other, so none had a full picture of the lethal danger he posed.
      • Some of this information might have blocked gun purchases

    Comment: As we learned after 9/11, you can’t connect the dots if bureaucracies don’t share information. In the 9/11 case, the failure was the predictable consequence of laws blocking such sharing between the FBI (focused on domestic crime prosecution) and the CIA/NSA (focused on foreign issues, not crime, and prohibited from domestic spying). Terrorists exploited those “stovepipes” by moving across borders.

    In the Texas case, it was simply the military’s failure to enter info in shared databases. In the case of the shooter’s escape from a mental hospital, we don’t know why that information was not entered into shared databases, where it could have blocked gun purchases.

    Even if the information is available, there is so much of it that local law enforcement may not be able to sort through it and use it effectively.

     Very tight governor’s race in today’s Virginia election:

    UPDATE: Democrat Wins

    The state has been trending Democratic for some years, fueled by population growth in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia.

    Hillary won the state by 5 points and Trump’s unpopularity in North Virginia is why he didn’t campaign for the Republican, the first Presidential no-show in half a century.

    That’s why the Democrat tried to make it a “national” election while the Republican tried to make it “local.”

    Beyond the usual impact on policy, the winner will influence Virginia’s redistricting after the 2020 Census.

    Harvey Weinstein: Two developments

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  • Trump in South Korea: What Does the US Want?

    ◆ What’s on Trump’s Agenda in Seoul? 

    Comment: Mostly North Korea but also some trade issues.

    For the US and its strong ally, Japan, the problem is South Korea’s leftist president, Moon Jae-In.

    He was soft on North Korea before the election, a long-held, principled position. He has been somewhat firmer since then because of Kim’s provocations.

    The main problem, though, is that he wants much closer relations with Beijing and is willing to back away from the US to get that. Beijing is concerned about US anti-missile defense in South Korea and would be very concerned if the US returned nuclear weapons to the peninsula. South Korea’s Moon has essentially caved to Beijing’s demands.

    China’s leaders will be taking the measure of Trump’s clout during his visit to Seoul. If he can get real strategic, security cooperation from Moon, China will be more inclined to cooperate with Trump’s initiatives. If not, not.

    Xi and his advisers were doubtless pleased by Trump’s offer to negotiate with North Korea. So was Moon. But Trump, unlike Obama, believes in negotiating from a position of strength, not making “feel good” concessions without reciprocity. He won’t do anything that hints he is taking harsher actions off the table.

    The key, then: The visit to Seoul is mostly about Beijing, and all the stops are about Pyongyang.

     

     

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 6

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

    Trump in Asia: What Matters about the Trip (a comment)

    The trip has three main goals, all important but in tension with each other

    • Contain or eliminate North Korean nuclear threat to US and US allies (depends on China’s cooperation)
    • Reduce China’s trade surplus with US, ideally by opening China’s domestic market to US exports
    • Deter an expanding Chinese threat in South China Sea (reinforce America’s partnership with nations surrounding China)

    Trump is also likely to meet with Putin, with North Korea, Syria, and Iran as major topics

     Texas church shooting: A crazed, well-armed guy furious with his former in-laws, who worshipped at the church he attacked

    That’s the report from local news outlets in the San Antonio area (KSAT in San Antonio)

    Comment: Some commentators will stress his beliefs (“he was an atheist”). That is not what drove him. Anger and crazed impulsiveness, not ideology, are the drivers here.

     Mueller Leaking: NBC reports he has enough evidence to charge Mike Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser

    Special ZipDialog commentary here

    Another college attack on free-speech: Vassar students smear Wm. Jacobson (of Legal Insurrection blog) because he supports free speech (USA Today)

    Comment: Vassar, like so many small, elite colleges, is suffused with hard-left ideology.

    They should call these schools “Illiberal Arts Colleges.”

    Chicago nearing 600 homicides, most since 2003 (Chicago Tribune)

    How bad is it? The city has instituted a new program to show people how to stop bleeding from gunshot wounds (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: N

    Investigators suspect US journalists were paid to spread materials from the Clinton/FusionGPS/Russian Dossier (Washington Times)

    In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Fusion GPS, the dossier’s financier via the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign money, is fighting a House committee chairman’s bid to find out if the opposition research firm paid journalists.

    In U.S. District Court in Florida, a self-described dossier victim wants a judge to order the news website BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full, to disclose who gave it to them. –Washington Times

    Comment: Fusion GPS is fighting so tenacious to prevent any disclosures of their receipts and expenditures, you can’t help but think they might have something to hide.

    Pleading the 5th Amendment before Congress was also a hint.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tim Favero for the Vassar, William Jacobson story

     

  • The Republican Tax Proposal: A Quick Summary

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

    ◆ Republicans roll out their tax plan. Here are the key provisions

    The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports:

    Business: 

    • Rates permanently drop from 35% to 20%, with lots of other changes in deductibility
    • One-time tax of 12% to repatriate overseas profits, returning them to US

    Individuals:

    • Reduces seven individual income tax brackets to four at 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%.
    • Top tax bracket set for married couples earning $1,000,000 per year and individuals earning $500,000.
    • Bottom tax bracket extends up to $90,000 for couples and $45,000 for individuals.
    • The proposal doesn’t change the top tax rates on capital gains and dividend income.
    • Keeps 401(k) rules intact
    • Nearly doubles individual standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples and $12,200 for singles in 2018.
    • Increases child tax credit from $1,000 in 2017 to $1,600 plus $300 for each taxpayer, spouse and non-child dependents.
    • Places new limit on home mortgage-interest deduction at loans up to $500,000, down from $1,000,000, but existing loans would be grandfathered.
      • Comment: Big impact on expensive homes, especially hitting NYC, San Francisco, Boston, and wealthy suburbs
    • Keeps estate-tax. Sets exemption at $5.6 million per person and $11.2 million per married couple. Repeals the tax in 2024.
    • Repeals the alternative minimum tax
    • Repeals an itemized deduction for medical expenses.
    • Repeals deduction for student-loan interest.
    • State tax deduction eliminated; local tax deduction changed (link here)

    Families would also no longer be able to deduct their state income taxes from their federal taxable income, another change that would have a particular impact on places like New Jersey and New York, where state taxes are higher than in other areas. Taxpayers will be able to deduct their property taxes up to $10,000. –Washington Post

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 25

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

    ◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats

    How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.

     Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign 

    The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.

    The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

    The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.

     Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders

    Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.

    The news is here:

    A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.

    The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.

    While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.

    The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News

    Comment: National news media have not reported this news.

    Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets 

    Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):

    In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times

    Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.

    I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.

    The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.

    The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here (Reuters)

    Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.

    Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.

    The local Arizona paper features this headline: Flake’s retirement opens floodgates to potential GOP candidates (Tucson.com)

    All those candidates are pro-Trump, but some are from more traditional elements of the party, others from the Bannon wing.

    The paper also notes that a divisive primary and an open seat gives the Democrats a chance to win for the first time in years.

    China’s Xi reveals Communist Party leadership, buttresses his own position and refuses to name a successor (BBC)

    All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.

    Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.

    Today in campus lunacy: Univ of Illinois education prof attacks difficult mathematics courses as evidence of white privilege (Campus Reform)

    “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].

    Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:

    If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

    To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”

    Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.

    Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes?  This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.

    Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).

    I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.

     

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the math-is-whiteness story