• ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 10

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

    ◆ Massive Wildfires across Northern California. Blazes in Sonoma’s wine country have not been contained(New York Times)

    At least 10 dead so far, 1500 buildings destroyed.

    Comment: There are other fires in Southern California. Together, they challenge the state’s ability to respond.

     Tennessee’s centrist Republican Senator, Bob Corker, doubles down on his accusations against Trump

    The New York Times broke the news and did an in-depth interview with Corker, whose attacks on Trump are as personal as DJT’s angry tweets at Corker. The Times’ latest article is here.

    Comment: Corker’s attacks are important for three reasons

    • First, according to NYT reporters, Corker’s criticisms are merely the public voice of what most Senate Republicans say. Steve Bannon has said the same thing: establishment Republicans hate Trump and want to sink his agenda.
    • Second, since the Democrats oppose every Trump legislative initiative, he only chance to pass legislation is to hold together a narrow Republican majority. Now, Corker and McCain seem determined to oppose Trump. Add Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski to that grouping and you fall well short of 50 votes. (And most legislation will require 60.)
    • Third, Corker, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is privy to the highest-levels of US intel and diplomacy. He has recently said that Trump could be leading the US into World War III.

    The husband-and-wife team indicted in the Democratic Congressional IT scandal have now turned on each other (Daily Caller)

    The indicted husband-and-wife team of former IT aides to Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sat directly across from each other at the defendants’ table in federal court Friday in Washington, D.C., but refused to look at each other.

    Even as they are co-defendants in a U.S. case, Imran Awan’s own wife, Hina Alvi, has become the latest person to accuse him of fraud, filing papers against him in Pakistani court, according to Pakistani news channel ARY.

    Awan, his wife and two brothers — all previously on the payroll of House Democrats — became subjects of a Capitol Police investigation last year after investigators concluded they were submitting falsified invoices for equipment and had transferred “massive” data off a House server. After he was banned from the House network, Awan left a laptop with the username RepDWS in a Capitol Hill phone booth.

    Although The Washington Post has reported that investigators found that Awan and his relatives made unauthorized access to a congressional server 5,400 times, Wasserman Schultz has said concern about the matter was the stuff of the “right-wing media circus fringe.” –Daily Caller

    Comment: Whenever the defendants turn on each other, the prosecution benefits.

    What do we need to know?

    • Were the Democrats’ confidential information shared with outsiders, including foreign actors?
    • Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz stick by her accused aide for so long? Did he have anything on her?
    • How deep and wide does this scandal go?

    Comment #2: Mainstream media has shown zero interest in this massive scandal.

    Today’s “WTF” story

    Comment: No matter how fearsome your school’s mascot, I’m betting that “Radioactive Wild Boars” is scarier.

    The University of Arkansas should really consider upgrading their Razorback symbol.

     

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, October 1

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

    Trump says his own Sec. of State is wasting his time trying to talk with North Korea (New York Times)

    Trump added a personal insult to the North Korean leader, calling him “Little Rocket Man.”

    The NYT says the President “seemed to undercut” Tillerson.

    Comment: There are four possibilities.

    First, personal pique: always insults adversaries. Not at all helpful here. Could prompt irrational action by Kim.

    Second, it could be “good cop, bad cop.” Quite likely.

    Third, Tillerson is sending a message to Pyongyang, while Trump is sending one to Beijing. Virtually certain.

    Finally, it is possible that Trump thinks, “We will ultimately have to use force here. If so, it is far better if Kim does something that China (and other international actors) consider so provocative that the US must respond. Let’s see if I can goad him into that since it will build international support for something we will have to do anyway.”

    In any case, this situation is lethally dangerous. That’s been true for some time. Trump’s strategy depends on keeping the heat up, not turning it down. That’s the only way to get China to act.

    Trump Administration slashing red tape that slows business growth (Fox News)

    Big rollout of the PR side of this on Monday.

    Trump has directed federal agencies to lower the overall cost of their regulations during fiscal 2018, the Washington Times reported. Specific dollar figures were not available.

    But Neomi Rao, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, told the Times that new rules enacted by the Trump administration have so far saved U.S. businesses some $300 million in annualized costs.

    By contrast, Rao said the Obama administration saddled businesses with $80 billion in costs over eight years.

    Comment: Really important initiative, vastly underreported because there are no visuals and MSM does not like Trump. When they do report on regulations, they emphasize harm to individuals.

    ◆ The pain in Spain lies mainly in . . . Barcelona: Clashes and chaos as Madrid steps in to forcibly prevent Catalonia’s vote to become independent (New York Times)

    Catalonia’s defiant attempt to stage an independence referendum descended into chaos on Sunday, with hundreds injured in clashes with police in one of the most serious tests of Spain’s democracy since the end of the Franco dictatorship in the 1970s.

    National police officers in riot gear deployed in thick phalanxes as they fanned out across Catalonia, the restive northeastern region of Spain, to shut down polling stations and seize ballot boxes. –New York Times

    BBC story here.

    Comment: The fallout from the attempted vote and the violence will be serious and ongoing, with ramifications for separatist movements across Europe.

    ◆ Today in Islamic Terror: Marseilles train station

    Chicago Tribune headline: Man kills 2 with knife at French station, yells ‘Allahu Akbar’

    Associated Press headline for the same story: Fatal attack disrupts Marseille train travel

    Comments:

    • The Tribune actually uses the AP story and gives it the correct and informative headline. Kudos.
    • The AP doesn’t just bury the lede. It deliberately makes the headline less informative, presumably for PC reasons

    The Tribune website does not give my attention to the story. It treats it as a minor one. That’s not necessarily wrong. In fact, it tells you that lethal attacks in European public spaces where the Islamist killer yells his religious motivation are now so common that they receive only modest attention unless the death toll is high.

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  • NASCAR Won’t Take a Knee–that’s predictable but there’s also a touch of irony

    It’s not surprising to find NASCAR fans, owners, and pit crews are all-in for patriotism.

    They won’t be taking a knee like some players in the NFL and NBA.

    They see that as disrespecting the flag, the country, and those who love it.

    Their support for Trump and disgust at athletes who kneel could be predicted by anyone who understood America’s cultural divide and who stood on either side of it.

    Pres. Trump is deliberately driving that cultural divide as a wedge issue, much as Pres. Nixon and Vice President Agnew did during the Vietnam War. (Pres. Obama did, too, when he reflexively sided with Skip Gates against the “stupid” Cambridge police. Obama did not usually try to raise the profile of those divisions, but his policies–and the electoral disappointment of his constituencies–is the backdrop of our current turmoil.)

    Here’s the report in USA Today, headlined NASCAR owners side with Trump, take firm stance against anthem protests

    “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,” team owner Richard Childress responded when asked what he would do if one of his employees protested during the anthem. “I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”

    Team owner Richard Petty, who won a record-tying seven championships as a driver, said he would fire any employee that didn’t stand for the anthem.

    “Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty said. “If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.” –USA Today

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    Where’s the Irony, You Ask?

    The irony lies in NASCAR’s origins–running from the law and making a game of it.

    Just as jousting was a way for knights to show off and have fun while practicing their work-a-day skills, so NASCAR began with moonshine runners–drivers who sped across the back roads of Appalachia with a car full of homemade whiskey.

    Who was chasing them? “Revenuers.” The federal government imposes a tax on whiskey, and the folks who distilled white lightning had no intention of paying it.

    They hid their stills deep in the woods, in back hollers where outsiders were not welcome.

    A

    h, but they still had to get the hooch from the still to the customers in town. That’s where the fast drivers came in.

    Their whiskey-runner occasionally staged informal races to see who was best. Those evolved into track races and eventually NASCAR.

    They probably didn’t see any contraction between saluting the flag and telling the lawman to go to hell.

    But lots of us taste a swig of irony.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, September 25

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

    ◆ Germany’s Merkel wins, but she is significantly weaker. Far-right party (AfD) will have third most seats in parliament.

    The BBC calls it a “hollow victory.”

    The chancellor knew she would most likely win this election. But it is not the victory she or her party had hoped for. It is the conservatives’ worst election result under her leadership. A verdict, perhaps, on her decision to open Germany’s doors to one million refugees.

    Addressing her party, Mrs Merkel acknowledged the past four years had been hard. Nevertheless the party had still achieved its aim – to finish first.

    The cheers rang a little hollow. Because the real success story of this election belongs to AfD.–BBC

    Comment: Germany has been the most stably governed country in Europe for several decades, so this is a blow to the whole European project.

    The AfD includes real neo-Nazis, but it won votes from a lot of Germans who opposed the mainstream parties on gut issues such as immigration. Merkel’s open-immigration policy has saddled her country with real problems, and she is paying the price.

    Travel ban 3.0: This is a longer-term policy and will be phased in over several weeks.

    President Trump issued the order on Sunday. (Story here in the New York Times)

    The new order adds Venezuela, North Korea, and Chad to the list, which now covers eight countries. Most citizens these countries will be banned from entering the US, though the specifics differ for each country.

    Comment: Attorneys General from Democratic states will inevitably sue. They may win in some liberal courts but will lose at SCOTUS, if it makes it that far.

     Lots of NFL players kneel, supported (at least publicly) by coaches and owners. Trump keeps tweeting, driving the issue

    The Washington Post headline is typical: In showings of protest and solidarity, NFL teams respond to Trump’s criticisms

    The Chicago Tribune, which has a midwestern-conservative editorial page, ran an editorial ripping the President for adding to the nation’s divisions, adding that he did the same thing after Charlottesville.

    Going forward, how about he leaves discussions of free speech, race relations and religious protection to leaders who still have credibility?” –Chicago Tribune editorial

    Although national polls have no appeared on the issue, I see three positions emerging.

    • The players are right, or at least they have every right to do it. People on this side emphasize racial inequities, income inequalities, police brutality, and other progressive agenda items.
    • Trump is right. These players ought to show some respect for the country that made their success possible. People on this side emphasize patriotism and other conservative agenda items (some traditional conservative, some more nationalist).
    • Each side has a point, and each has a problem. The players have a right to protest, if they wish, but they have imposed a political agenda on an escapist entertainment for most fans. Do it somewhere else. They add that Trump may be right to defend patriotism but it is un-Presidential to call the players SOB’s and to urge consumer boycotts.

    Comment: Whether this dispute is good for Trump or for the players (I think it is smart politics for Trump), it is not good for the country. It highlights and deepens serious divisions among Americans.

    I’m sure Roger Goodell would love to get back to his main job: explaining why 300 lb people smashing into each other repeatedly has no effect on the brain “that we have really proven, etc.” It’s the Marlboro Man redux.

    London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan compares Trump to ISIS (Fox News)

    He has also said Britain should not host Trump on a visit and certainly not consider it a “state visit.”

    Comment: Khan has time on his hands until the next terrorist attack on his city.

    He has taunted Trump and flaunted the safe, multicultural environment of London before. After that tweet in May 2016, he watched as his city was lethally attacked by terrorists several times.

    GOP will roll out its tax plan later this week with cuts and maybe reform.

    The Washington Post is already stirred up, saying it will help the rich

    Comment: Here’s the problem: the top 1% pay about 40% of the country’s income taxes. If you cut taxes, even if you tilt the cuts toward the middle class, you are bound to help a lot of rich people.

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  • 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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