• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, August 12

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

    Good ole Kim says he’s “on standby to launch” (Fox News)

    If the Trump administration does not want the American empire to meet its tragic doom . . ., they had better talk and act properly.

    –North Korean regime in official newspaper, quoted in Fox News

    Riding tide in New Orleans (NOLA)

    With another rainy weekend looming for New Orleans, the Sewerage & Water Board scrambling to shore up its neglected network of temperamental pumps, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declaring a pre-emptive state of emergency, the national media is casting an eye south in the event that the city experiences a repeat of the flooding that hit the city on Saturday (Aug. 5). –NOLA

    Comment: ZipDialog always tries to use local sources for local news. They do better reporting than fly-in media.

    90th birthday for former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, known as “The Golden Zipper,” long before Bill Clinton (NOLA)

    These are some of the Zipper’s best quotes:

    1983: “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” (He won!)

    1983: “David Treen is so slow it takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.” (Zing! Edwards defeated Treen.)

    1991: “Vote for the Crook. It’s Important.” (Okay, not exactly a quote. It was Edwards’s informal campaign slogan, thanks to Buddy Roemer.)

    1991: “The only thing we have in common is we’re both wizards under the sheets.” (Edwards was talking about opponent David Duke.)

    1991: “No, it wasn’t that way. He (the author) was gone when the last one came in.” (Edwards was asked about a claim he slept with six women in one night.)

    — quoted in Washington Post (link here)

     Republicans have “tough hill to climb” on tax reform, says GOP strategist (CNBC)

    [Republican strategist Ron] Christie thinks Trump needs to work with McConnell on tax reform, not insult him over social media.

    “If we can’t get anything done in the Congress, and we have the largest governing majority since 1929, it tells you perhaps that Republicans don’t deserve the trust to govern.” –CNBC

    Comment: Ron Christie is exactly right on this. No healthcare reform and no tax reform means the Republicans cannot exactly run on their record.

    Actual headline: “The big loser during the solar eclipse? Solar panels” (Mashable)

    Comment: Wait! Wait! Let me see if I’ve got this right . . . .




  • Why is America’s wealthiest state (Connecticut), with very high taxes, spiraling into financial crisis?

    The fiscal crisis is Illinois in profound and well-known.

    The one in Connecticut has gotten less attention. Here is some key data (Fox Business)

    Revenue shortfalls in the state register around $450 million for the current fiscal year alone, while estimated deficit totals are projected to clock in near $5 billion for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years combined, according to The Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Debt outstanding levels and unfunded pension liabilities relative to revenues are among the highest of any state in the country, Moody’s Investors Service said in May.

    As previously reported by FOX Business, income-tax collections are projected to fall  in fiscal year 2017 for the first time since the recession.

    Connecticut’s financial despair comes despite the state government’s approval of one of its largest tax rate increases ever in 2015.

    Comment: The crucial point is that they are already paying high taxes, and they raised them again recently. And it is not like Connecticut’s public services are the gold standard.

    There are two implications, I think:

    1. If higher taxes solved the problem, then they wouldn’t have these fiscal problems to begin with
    2. Connecticut’s high taxes and moderate services mean they simply pay more and more to get the same thing. That is almost always due to higher costs for public sector workers. (Since those workers are a key element of the Democratic voter base, the implication is that Democrats long controlled the state and rewarded their base. That is certainly what happened in Illinois.)

    If you try to solve that by continuing the same policies, you compound the problems and drive away people who can create new jobs and income. That’s the story in Connecticut, where tax revenues are now falling despite a rising economy and higher tax levels.

    If it weren’t for the hedge-fund industry around Greenwich, which generates huge revenue for the state, the crisis would be much, much deeper.

    They better hope those investors don’t hear the siren song of Texas or Florida, where there is no state income tax.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 4

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

     England’s third major terror attack in 10 weeks raises fundamental questions about how to prevent these assaults

    Comment: Kudos to the London police for their immediate response. It was swift, sure, and effective. 8 minutes from first incident to squads arriving in force. Their swift action prevented countless additional casualties.


    The problem is how to prevent these attacks, both in the short run (surveillance, arrests, etc.) and long run (tougher restrictions on immigration and rethinking the obvious failure to integrate the communities into the liberal west).

    All Europe is facing a high threat from Islamic extremists, many (like the Manchester bomber) born in the very Western countries they are terrorizing.

    As ISIS is squeezed abroad, they will try to revive their organization by killing in Europe.

    Ordinary Europeans will refuse to live in perpetual terror and demand answers from their failing political leaders.

     US media reported the London attack, wall-to-wall, but buried one aspect of the story. Any guesses? You are correct.

    I explain the MSM’s fecklessness, and illustrate it concretely, in a separate post, here. I call it PC BS.

     In happier news, one of baseball’s all-time greats, Albert Pujols become the 9th player to hit 600 homers. (ESPN) The cherry on top: it was a grand slam. Another cherry: it comes in the post-steroid era. His head and arms actually look human. 

     Japan holds evacuation drills as North Korea’s nuclear program advances  (Reuters)

    Comment: The Japanese navy is also conducting joint exercises with the US fleet.

    My sense is that the Chinese are playing rope-a-dope, doing a little to slow down Pyongyang but not nearly enough. That is simply unsustainable for the US and Japan.

     Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell hopeful on tax cuts, less so on healthcare  (Reuters)

    Comment: Tax reform is essential, and the Republicans know it, not just for the economy but for their reelection.

    On healthcare, the pressure in late autumn, when next year’s premium notices go out, will be enormous. Obamacare is melting down, and that means suffering. The Republicans will point at Obama and the D’s. But that won’t cut it. People elected the R’s to fix it.

     California progressives really, really want single-payer, and they want their state to provide it. (Fortune)

    The state Senate, with a big Democratic majority, passed it easily. They skipped over the pesky problem of paying for it. (Honestly, they did absolutely nothing about funding it.)

    How expensive would it be? $400 billion. That’s huge. More than twice as big as the entire state budget today.

    No one knows if the State Assembly will pass it or if Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it.

    Naturally, they would need to heft tax hikes to pay for it, but economic studies show there is still a big shortfall. (ABC News)

    Comment: The leading Democratic contender for Governor, Gavin Newsom (former mayor of S.F.), put on his tin-foil hat and strongly backed the single-payer plan.

     Another “can you top this” in college crazies: Black students at Evergreen State U. in Olympia, WA, demand all white people leave the campus for a day.  (Washington Post) 

    Their demands managed to close the entire school for a day.

    For some reason, not everyone thought this white-leave-campus thing was a good idea.

    One long-time progressive, Prof. Bret Weinstein, did not favor it. And he didn’t like the students’ demands that new academic hires deemphasize academic ability and focus on race/gender/undocumented/social justice/etc.

    As you can imagine, those opposed to Weinstein were not looking for a debate.

    The were looking for blood.

    In fact, the other professors at Evergreen State also turned on Weinstein. (National Review Online)

    It’s so nasty, so crazy that even the NYT’s Frank Bruni writes a column against it. Naturally, he begins by condemning the US, thus establishing his bona fides as a morally superior person, but he still doesn’t like the ideas out in Olympia. It’s a strong column–and one the NYT readership needed to see.

    There are names for people like Frank Bruni. Fascist. Racist. Sexist. Columnist.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Richard Siegler
     and Tom Wyckoff for the Frank Bruni column.


  • Hypocrite of the Day: Comedian John Oliver

    Oliver earns his living making fun of conservatives, the right, and anyone who dislikes his vision of an ideal society, which is essentially European socialism.

    So, it was amusing to see that he and his lawyers have figured out the best way to avoid the taxes needed to pay for this utopia.

    The story is here, at the Observer.

    The headline: The John Oliver Property Tax Scam: HBO Comedian Secretly Buys Manhattan Mansion

    The subheader: Liberal Deity avoids taxes by using loophole created by Donald Trump

    To quote from the Observer story:

    The hypocrisy really gets ratcheted up with John Oliver, the No. 1 darling to so many liberal anti-Trumpies, who regularly attacks GOP tax schemes as giveaways to the rich and detrimental to the poor.  . . .  Oliver even briefly established the bogus Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption to draw attention to tax-exempt status granted to churches and charities.

    [In July 2014] Oliver said, “At this point the rich are just running up the score…What sets America apart is that we are actively introducing policies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy,” such as tax cuts and loopholes like trusts.

    So it’s a little surprising to discover that just months before, Oliver had a tax attorney set up two revocable trusts, one for him and one for his wife, to hide the couple’s purchase of a $9.5 million Manhattan penthouse. Then he used a tax loophole created by Donald Trump himself back in the 1970s.   . . .

    But just four months before Oliver’s July show, he had hired slick New York law firm Proskauer Rose LLP, which, in addition to union-busting and representing BP America, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil, specializes in helping the rich find tax breaks and buy real estate. –The Observer

    And that law firm squeezed him through every loophole available in the building for the super-rich, where his neighbors are major domos in hedge funds and the like.


    It is not wrong for the rich to favor redistribution. 

    It is not wrong to pay the least taxes you owe legally.

    But it hypocritical to hide your wealth, avoid all the taxes you can legally, and live a pampered life among the rich while simultaneously criticizing everyone else for doing exactly what you are doing.

    Ultimately, he’s just another vote for the late Sen. Russell Long’s insight:

  • California plans to tax space travel. Really.

    Life in the tax-hungry state imitates the Beatles’ song

    The once-Golden State is now so eager for funds that it is revving up plans to tax you if you head up, up, and away to escape the place.

    According to the San Francisco Chronicle

    The state’s Franchise Tax Board is seeking public comment on its proposal for computing taxes on commercial space transportation companies. –SF Chronicle

    Who would face this tax?

    Any company operating in California that generates at least half the money it takes in from “space transportation” — defined as the movement of people or property 62 miles above the surface of the Earth. . . .  It would apply to companies that use California as a launchpad, not California companies launching from other states, like Texas or Florida.

    Predictable effect: Commercial space companies will launch from other states.

    Lawyers for the moon are already contesting California’s claim it owes extensive back taxes for repeatedly circling the earth.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 27

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

     Trump goes BIG with proposed tax cuts

    New York Times: “Trump Proposes Sharply Cutting Tax Rates for Individuals”

    The plan is still broad strokes, rather than details, but the strokes are bold.  The point men are Steven Mnuchin at Treasury and Gary Cohn at the National Economic Council.

    The proposal envisions slashing the tax rate paid by businesses large and small to 15 percent. The number of individual income tax brackets would shrink from seven to three — 10, 25 and 35 percent — easing the tax burden on most Americans, including the president, although aides did not offer the income ranges for each bracket.

    Individual tax rates currently have a ceiling of 39.6 percent and a floor of 10 percent. Most Americans pay taxes somewhere between the two.

    The president would eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people by effectively limiting the deductions and other benefits available to them. –New York Times

    The Times also has a perceptive story: Trump’s Tax Plan Is a Reckoning for Republican Deficit Hawks

    The White House insists that economic growth will cover the cost, which could be as high as $7 trillion over a decade. But the question will dog Republicans and could fracture their party as they face the prospect of endorsing a plan that many economists and budget analysts warn will increase the deficit. –New York Times

    Comment: The main story on tax cuts is riddled with editorial attacks on Trump and often personal ones. The opening line of the lead story is that the tax cuts benefit the rich. And all the stories emphasize the NYT’s speculation–and that is all it is–that the cuts will benefit Trump personally. The implications are that he is self-dealing and that this plan is just another “favor-the-rich, Republican plutocrat” idea. They also love to follow the “benefit the rich” with the words “like Donald Trump.” They have given up all pretense of distinguishing their hard-news reporting from their editorial stance. The difference is the first thing student journalists learn.

     US THAAD anti-missile system, sent to South Korea, to be active within days  (CNN)

    Comment: The US has also sent major naval assets to the area, while China and Russia have deployed significant land forces, possibly fearing an influx of refugees if the Kim regime collapse. But also a signal to Kim Jong Un that he is facing pressure on multiple fronts. 

     Obamacare repeal: House GOP factions making progress, Senate Republicans still an obstacle.  Politico reports: GOP senators not so keen on House’s Obamacare repeal

    The House may finally be on its way to scrapping Obamacare, but don’t expect the Senate to go along: Any plan sent over will undergo major surgery — and survival is far from assured.

    The hurdles in the upper chamber were on vivid display Wednesday as House Republicans celebrated their breakthrough on the stalled repeal effort. The compromise cut with House Freedom Caucus members won over the right flank, but the changes will almost surely make it harder to pick up votes in the more moderate-minded Senate. –Politico

    Comment: The pressure to get this done will be enormous. The GOP knows that they face electoral disaster if they don’t pass their biggest promise of the past seven years.

     How good is the economy in Austin, Texas? “Employers struggling to find workers who will take less than $15 an hour” (KXAN)

    The story also notes, oddly, that unemployment there has crept up slightly in the past few months.

    Comment: When I was in Austin this winter, I asked some workers at a fast-food chain what the starting wage was. “$12 an hour.” I often ask that question when I travel since the starting wage at a McDonald’s or Dairy Queen is the effective minimum wage in the area. 

    I draw two lessons from the Austin story.

    First, the only lasting way to raise the minimum wage is to strengthen business demand for workers, which means making it easier for them to do business and prosper. That’s the Texas story, in a nutshell.

    Second, if unemployment is creeping up (though still very low in Austin) but businesses cannot find workers, then something is wrong. Either people don’t have the right skills or there are disincentives to work. Either way, those are problems that need solutions.

     First settlers came to America 130,000 years ago, long before previous estimates, according to a new study.  (Science News)

    An unidentified Homo species used stone tools to crack apart mastodon bones, teeth and tusks approximately 130,700 years ago at a site near what’s now San Diego. This unsettling claim upending the scientific debate over the settling of the Americas comes from a team led by archaeologist Steven Holen of the Center for American Paleolithic Research in Hot Springs, South Dakota, and paleontologist Thomas Deméré of the San Diego Natural History Museum. If true, it means the Cerutti Mastodon site contains the oldest known evidence, by more than 100,000 years, of human or humanlike colonists in the New World, the researchers report online April 26 in Nature. –Science News


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Michael Lipson
     for the Austin, Texas, story


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, April 26

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

     The story today that will most affect Americans for years to come: a proposed big tax cut for business, with a special focus on small businesses.

    The Washington Post frames it this way “Trump to propose large increase in deductions Americans can claim on their taxes

    President Trump on Wednesday plans to call for a significant increase in the standard deduction people can claim on their tax returns, potentially putting thousands of dollars each year into the pockets of tens of millions of Americans, according to two people briefed on the plan. . . .

    Trump will call for a sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 15 percent. He will also propose lowering the tax rate for millions of small businesses that now file their tax returns under the individual tax code, two people familiar with the plan said.. –Washington Post

    The New York Times is far grumpier. “Trump Tax Plan: Low Rate for Corporations, and for Companies Like His” and “The ‘Voodoo Economics’ of the Laffer Curve Return

    Comment: The NYT slant reminds me of the old joke about their front page headline: “World to End. Poor Affected Most” 

    Where’s Perry White? Save the editorials for the editorial page.

     No Sanctuary? Another judge from the 9th Circuit nixes a major Trump policy, this time blocking policies that could defund Sanctuary Cities

    The Reuters story is here.

    The ruling from U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco said Trump’s Jan. 25 order targeted broad categories of federal funding for sanctuary governments and that plaintiffs challenging the order were likely to succeed in proving it unconstitutional.

    The Republican president’s moves on immigration have galvanized legal advocacy groups, along with Democratic city and state governments, to oppose them in court. –Reuters

    Fox counters, predictably (but interestingly): Judge Who Blocked Trump Sanctuary City Order Bundled $200K for Obama and personally donated more than $30k to groups supporting him.

    Comment: I’m going to make a wild guess here: the DOJ will appeal. Since this case will go to the 9th Circuit, which will rule predictably against Trump, this one will go up to the Supremes.

    ◆ Iran Nuclear Deal: Politico publishes a major investigation headlined, “Obama’s Hidden Iran Deal Giveaway”  The article goes further, effectively saying the Obama Administration misled the American public about the scale of their giveaways in their desperate effort to get a deal with the Mullahs.

    In his Sunday morning address [January 17, 2016] to the American people, Obama portrayed the seven men he freed as “civilians.” The senior official described them as businessmen convicted of or awaiting trial for mere “sanctions-related offenses, violations of the trade embargo.”

    In reality, some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware. As part of the deal, U.S. officials even dropped their demand for $10 million that a jury said the aerospace engineer illegally received from Tehran. –Josh Meyer investigation in Politico

    It gets worse–and more dangerous:

    In its determination to win support for the nuclear deal and prisoner swap from Tehran — and from Congress and the American people — the Obama administration did a lot more than just downplay the threats posed by the men it let off the hook, according to POLITICO’s findings.

    Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort. –Josh Meyer in Politico

    One immediate effect: House Foreign Affairs chair, Ed Royce, asks DOJ and State to revive probes that the Obama Administration “may have” killed. (Politico)

    Comment: If you think the major networks gave this major story any play at all, you still believe in the tooth fairy. Story on non-reporting here

    While ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday and Tuesday found time to celebrate the return of “easy-going,” rested Barack Obama to the public scene, none of them covered the release of a blockbuster expose that reveals the buried secrets of the ex-President’s Iran deal giveaway. –Newbusters

     Ann Coulter to speak in public plaza in college town Thursday; Berkeley police prepare for D-Day Invasion.  (Washington Post)  

    Comment: The fact that people riot at this is simply insane. This was once the home of the free-speech movement. Now, it’s “free speech for me but not for thee.”



  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Tuesday, Dec. 19

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆”I’m more oppressed.” “No, I AM more oppressed.” Berkeley conference among victims groups turns into a nasty bidding contest about which one is more oppressed. Blacks wanted it all to be about their oppression. Muslims wanted it to be about their oppression. And so on. The conference breaks down in recriminations about which one is most oppressed. The article is here, at The College Fix.

    ⇒ Related Story: Hispanic student describes her mistake in telling other UCLA students that her family was “not here illegally.” Turns out you cannot use the word “illegal.” Jacqueline Alvarez in The Daily Bruin

    ◆ How Israel turned a toy into an invaluable, high-tech military tool. (Commentary Magazine)

    ◆ Overregulation Nation = Stagnation Nation. Bret Stephens lays out the grim details of how much worse regulatory burdens have gotten under Obama. (WSJ) One characteristic data point. When Obama came into office, it took 40 days to get a construction permit; now, thanks to smart regulation, it takes 81.  When Obama entered office, the US was third in the world in “ease of doing business.” Now, it’s eighth and declining.

    ⇒ Comment: IMO, the decline is partly due to a government of European-style social democrats, partly to an administration entirely composed of lawyers who have never run a two-car funeral. (Charles Lipson)

    ◆ Apple uses its Irish domicile to minimize EU taxes. The EU hates that and has fined Apple billions for what appears to be perfectly sensible tax planning. Now, Apple is fighting back. Here’s the essence of the Wall Street Journal report:

    [Apple’s legal] filings highlight sharp disagreements between the EU commission on one side and Ireland and Apple on the other, presaging a years-long battle in the EU’s top courts that will determine the extent of the bloc’s powers to rein in alleged tax avoidance by multinational companies doing business in Europe. –WSJ

    ◆ Noam Chomsky has now decided that the worst organization in human history, surpassing the Nazis, Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge is . . . wait for it . . the Republican party. (Independent, UK)

    ◆ I confess, I love it when live TV goes wrong. Here, our morning anchor shares her Christmas-time artichoke dip. Not a tasty treat, it turns out.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal and Thomas Lifson
     for the Berkeley Olympics of oppression article.
    ◆ Kate Hardiman for the article in the College Fix and the link to one in the Daily Bruin.

    ◆ Tom Elia for Noam Chomsky’s insights


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, November 30

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Trump’s initial Cabinet appointments tell me he intends to move swiftly to pass a far-reaching agenda and will work closely with a Republican House and Senate to do it.

    Comment: Tom Price is an expert of health care and committed to dismantling Obamacare and replacing it with a market-oriented system. Betsy DeVos is an expert on charter schools and vouchers and will make big changes at the Department of Education. Elaine Chou has extensive experience in government and a background in infrastructure, which she will bring to the Department of Transportation.

    The ties to Capitol Hill are strong, without the K-Street strings. Price has worked extremely closely with Paul Ryan, as has Chief of Staff, Reince Preibus. Chou, who was born in Taiwan and has helped manage her family’s transportation interests, was a long-serving Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. She is married to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Vice-President-elect Pence served in both the House and Senate before becoming Governor of Indiana.

    These appointments suggest the Trump Administration will work closely with Ryan and McConnell to move a big agenda. They have majorities in both houses (but not a super-majority in the Senate), and have already passed a lot of Republican proposals that died on Pres. Obama’s desk. So, they won’t have to start from scratch.

    regulations-labeled-200px-no-marginsPaul Ryan lays out his top 4 priorities:

    1.  Economic growth, beginning with deregulation
    2.  Repealing and replacing Obamacare
    3.  Tax Reform
    4.  Security the border

    He discussed those priorities in a Wisconsin radio interview and says he is in close touch daily with Pres.-elect Trump. (Talking Points Memo)

    ◆ UN Security Council to pass tighter sanctions on North Korea with China’s help. (Fox News)

    Comment: China’s problem here is vexing. They do not want to break the vulnerable Kim regime, but they don’t want to see South Korea and Japan start arming themselves to cope with North Korea’s rising threat.

    ◆ Indonesia has always had a huge Muslim population but not a militant, extremist one. That’s changing, says Time Magazine, and the Chinese minority in the country are fearful.

    ◆ ISIS calls attacker at Ohio State a “soldier.” (New York Times) He appears to have been inspired online, rather than trained directly.

    Comment: White House spokesman Josh Ernest was truly embarrassing as he tried to describe the attack without saying the word “Islam.” It was like the author who wrote an entire novel without using the letter “e.” Yes, you can do it. But why?


    Seen any interesting news or commentary?

    I welcome your suggestions. Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com