• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, November 2

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

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

    I lay out all the key provisions in a separate post at ZipDialog.

    The basics from The Wall Street Journal:

    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.
    • Bottom tax bracket extends up to $90,000 for couples.
    • No change to top tax rates on capital gains and dividend income.
    • No change to 401(k) rules
    • Nearly doubles individual standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples.
    • New limit on home mortgage-interest deduction at loans up to $500,000, down from $1,000,000, but existing loans would be grandfathered.
    • 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
    • No deduction for state taxes.
    • Keeps deduction for local taxes up to $10,000

    Comment: Now the pushing and shoving begins. The Democrats yell, “Hurts the poor.” The Republicans yell, “Grows the economy for everyone.”

    Democrats will also say it inflates the deficit. They said nothing when Pres. Obama did the same thing.

     Houston Astros win the World Series

    Here’s the wonderful front page of the Houston Chronicle:

    Comment: Great series between two outstanding teams.

    Seven Democratic Senators introduce legislation to slow the revolving door between regulators and Big Pharma (Washington Post)

    No Republicans have signed on, so far.

    Comment: This goes to the essence of the Swamp.

     Rigged Nomination Process: Clinton and DNC, says former Dem. chair Donna Brazile (Politico).

    Brazile, who took over as temporary DNC chair from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saw documents in which Hillary Clinton’s campaign loaned money to the DNC in exchange for essentially fully control of the party apparatus a year before she was officially nominated.

    Comment: Bernie Sanders and his supporters had claimed the process was rigged. Brazile’s new book say they were right.

    Neither Clinton nor Wasserman Schultz has commented.

    If you are still shocked by this kind of corruption, you haven’t been paying attention.

     

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  • 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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  • Government Debt and Political Hypocrisy (by both parties)

    I just read the comment of a Democratic friend who is shocked, shocked that Pres. Trump’s tax proposals will increase the US budget deficit.

    Factually, he’s right. So say all the static projections I’ve seen.

    But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

    My comment: US debt is a serious issue, but the political sparring is utterly hypocritical. It’s not just my Democratic friend. The Republicans are filling the air with their own false platitudes.

    Under Pres. Obama, US government debt doubled. We were not in a recession, as measured by economists, though we were coming out of a scary one.  During the Obama presidency, the economy was growing, albeit slowly.

    While Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were busy blowing up the budget, the Dems had only praise for “government investments” and “the stimulus effect.” As for the spiraling national debt, they were deaf, dumb, and blind. But they sure played a mean pinball.

     

    Here is the data from the (truly) non-partisan Center for a Responsibility Federal Budget, which does not lay all the blame on Pres. Obama.

    Not only were the totals substantially higher, they were substantially higher as a percentage of US GDP.

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    The Sky Is Falling . . . or not

     

    At the time, Republicans strenuously complained, “The sky is falling.”

    Now, the shoe is on the other foot–and it is the other party complaining.

    And the rebuttals are coming from Republicans, not Democrats.

    It is the “party of fiscal responsibility” that is downplaying the impact of the tax cuts on national debt.

    Their main claim: “It’s all about growth.”

    The Democrats, who have never met a deficit they didn’t like, are complaining, “The sky is falling.”

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    Democratic Complaints about Republican Deficits

    The Democrats’ complaints center on two issues.

    • First, the plan is Republican and the government is controlled by Republicans, not their own party. In this Congress, with this President, the Democrats’ attitude echoes Groucho Marx’s song, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

    • Second, the deficit will be caused by the government taking less money from citizens rather than the Democrats’ preferred way of running deficits: excess government spending.

    Both sides richly deserve the Claude Rains Medal for hypocrisy.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 20

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

    Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela 

    It combined two main elements:

    1. A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
    2. Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order

    The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.

    He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.”  He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).

    He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

    His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.

    Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.

    As CNN put it, “No American President has ever spoken to the world like this,” calling terrorists and some nations “evil.”

    The best comment about the speech came from

     

    Rich Lowery in the National Review Online:

    As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.

     Two natural disasters: 

    1. Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
    2. Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.

    Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.

    Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.

    Republicans on the hill embrace big tax cuts, even if they increase the deficit (New York Times)

    Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

    The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.

    Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.

    Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.

    Former Chicago cop, wanted for shaking down drug dealers, has been arrested in Detroit after 15 years on the run (Chicago Tribune)

    He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.

    Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week

    They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)

    This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.

    NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.

    When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum

    Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:

    President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes

    The MEF report on the incident is here.

    Paul Manafort wants investigations of leaks, which may have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s office, which is trying to rachet up the pressure on Manafort (Reuters)

    “If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].

    “The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.

    The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters

    Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.

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  • 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, September 5

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

    ◆ Another huge, devastating hurricane coming: Cat 5. Will hit Puerto Rico, then south Florida

    No one knows whether it might swing due north through Florida or later, after it hits the Gulf.

    DACA exemptions to end in 6 months unless Congress fixes 

    Washington Post story here

    The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue.

    The decision, after weeks of intense deliberation between President Trump and his top advisers, represents a blow to hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “dreamers” who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. But it also allows the White House to shift some of the pressure and burden of determining their future onto Congress, setting up a public fight over their legal status that is likely to be waged for months. –Washington Post

    The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

    He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny. –AG Jeff Sessions in WaPo

    Congressional Republicans plan legislation to fix. Democrats vigorously condemn Trump (Fox News)

    Congressional Republicans indicated Tuesday they will take up the Trump administration’s call to consider legislation to replace the Obama-era DACA program, though condemnation from Democrats over the decision to end it points to a heated battle ahead.

     America’s universities deny students fair hears on sexual-assault allegations, according to new report (FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

    FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for 2017 (link here)

    A new survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of America’s top universities fail to provide students accused of serious misconduct with the most basic elements of fair procedure

    A shocking 85 percent of top institutions maintain policies that receive a D or F grade for due process protections

    Nearly 74 percent of institutions don’t even presume a student innocent until proven guilty. –FIRE

    Comment: The worthy effort to protect victims and ensure their rights has undercut the rights of those accused. This erosion began with orders from Washington bureaucrats during the Obama administration and has been carried out zealously on campus.

    GOP could move debt-ceiling and relief for Hurricane Harvey this week in Congress (Politico)

    Fiscal conservatives have objections.

    Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program: why he wants it (Washington Post)

     

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  • Using Smart Tech to Solve the Impass in US Health Care

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    The American health care payment system is stuck in the mud–mired down by traditional ways of delivering medical services.

    We can do better. Major, cost-effective technologies are available to be utilized.

    It is unlikely that the Senate Republican factions will resolve their health care related legislative differences, although last-minute compromise is possible. Also, it is unlikely that Congressional Republicans and Democrats will bridge their ideological and political differences. The American public demands lower cost, effective, appropriate health care coverage.

    Pragmatic economics, coupled with technology, is key because money to be saved by reducing Medicaid expenses can be used to provide increased health care coverage to the really Medicaid eligible, working Americans, and retired senior citizens.

    This reality concept will be regarded as mean-spirited by the 45 percent of American adults who do not have full-time employment, and the 94 million people who have decided to remove themselves the job market, and their political supporters. Requiring work as the consideration for receiving Medicaid social benefits is not necessarily mean-spirited.

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    Why Obamacare Failed

     The Obamacare (ACA) health care law concept and implementation has failed because it has substantially increased health care premia and reduced coverage.

    The Republican House alternative may be better than ACA, but it will be changed because the Republican Senate has three or more competing groups with conflicting approaches to health care legislation, none of which conform to the House version.  A two-party compromise Senate health care bill is unlikely to be reached because Democratic senators will not vote for Republican health care legislation, and the likelihood of a good faith compromise is nil.

    There is an impasse: a predicament affording no obvious escape. Meanwhile, the future health care of Americans is in limbo.

    The solution is apparent, but unperceived: patient data collection by smartphone, and the acquisition of an available personal health care profile and its adaptation.

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    Nobody’s happy with the Republican proposals, either

     The most recent health care public polling suggests dissatisfaction with both parties’ plans.

    For example, the Republican House bill, repeal and replace ACA, has only 16 percent approval.

    The public approval of ACA and whether efforts should continue to repeal and replace this law are almost evenly split among the public.

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    Self-interested players in Health Care . . . with different goals

     The health care discussion arena is composed of numerous self-interested players. Their interests are often different.

    Following are differing perspectives:

    • Provide what the public needs, rather than what they want
    • Older people use more than one-half of the health care money in the last few months before they die
    • The younger generation believes that they are health infallible, and they do not want to pay for older generation and senior health care expenses
    • What can the federal and state governments afford to pay for health care that competes with other national priorities such as road building and maintenance, education, national security, and military defense?
    • Compassion for the health care underclass has financial limits: single-parent families, the disabled, many of whom could be employed part-time, and alcohol and drug addicts
    • Many private health care insurance companies have and are canceling their participation in government sponsored health care plan coverage because of contemporary major losses and future financial uncertainty
    • The fallback solution that may emerge may be a federal government single payer, rather than the private sector insurance
    • Personal health responsibility:  stay healthy and save money for oneself and for the government is not part of American culture
    • High volume Medicaid provider hospitals provide high technology services that are duplicative and are expensive, although these devices are not fully utilized in many urban areas
    • Primary care physicians correctly believe that they are under-reimbursed for the essential Medicaid services that they provide. As a consequence, many primary care physicians are leaving the practice of medicine, or they decline Medicaid patients because of the high volume of paperwork documentation that is required

    Economics encompasses all of these issues: what can taxpaying citizens and their government afford, and what is the priority allocation among competing government services?

    Although there are no easy solutions, we need to use the best technology currently available and some emerging ones, and supplement them by training a new generation of medical-technology providers.

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    Medicaid’s Explosive Growth, Explosive Costs

     President Obama’s ACA increased Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent above the poverty line. However this Medicaid increase was challenged in NFIB v. Sibelius, finding that it was state coercive, and that the federal government could not compel states to increase Medicaid eligibility.

    The federal government pays states for a defined percentage of their Medicaid program expenditures. The Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) varies by state based on criteria such as per capita income. The average federal payment made to states is 57 percent; 50 percent for wealthy states, and 75 percent for lower per capita income states.

    The 1965 Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act established the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The concept of Medicaid is that it is a social health care program for families and individuals with limited resources and special needs that is funded by federal and state governments. States manage the program and they have broad discretion to determine eligibility and benefits. Medicaid eligibility is an ideological and political battleground. Reduction of people who receive Medicaid benefits is regarded as mean-spirited – an estimated decrease of 20 million Medicaid recipients by the year 2027.  In contrast, there may be as many as 20 million Medicaid recipients who are not eligible.

    An estimated 1/3 of people who receive Medicaid payment are able-bodied who can work in the public or private sector. This concept – “get off the couch and go to work” – is now enforced by some states which have passed “Workfare” legislation wherein able-bodied persons must work to qualify for social program benefits.

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    Back to the States to Cope with Costs

     Consider another proposition that places health care responsibility with states, rather than the federal government.  States would receive a federal government payment, varying from 50 to 75 percent based on poverty eligibility levels. The states would have responsibility and flexibility to determine eligibility and the amount that they would pay for Medicaid expenses. The federal government responsibility would be to audit state health care payments to be certain that health care money provided by the federal government would not be diverted to other state programs. The advantage of total state responsibility would be administrative control, program efficiency, adherence to strict eligibility enforcement, and the political choices to be made by state citizens, that would vary by state.

    Economics drives political and social policy decisions because funding for Medicaid health care is finite. The FDA has provided an exception to the spiraling cost of Medicaid by reducing the cost of prescription medicine for patients. Many drugs do not face competition from cheaper generic alternatives even though their intellectual property protection rights have expired. When there are two or more generic competitors the drug cost to consumers drops by about 50 percent, saving consumers an estimated $250 billion dollars. Economic competition in medicine can result in major cost savings. The issue is whether economic cost saving and program efficiency can compete and overcome political differences.

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    Conclusion: Looking Forward

     Look to the future of medicine and health care. Hardware and software permeates all sectors of health care, but it has not been applied in medical practice. Sensors, imaging, patient genetic history, artificial intelligence, and home health monitoring, if used nationally, can retard or reduce the $3 trillion annual health care expense.

    US health care is the primary responsibility of doctors and hospitals that have made marvelous contemporary advances in patient diagnoses and care. The future improvement will be to exponentially advance contemporary health care by focusing on available, cost-effective technology.

    This is an opportunity to create a new, innovative profession: data-based health care consulting, with or without traditional M.D. degrees; and for medical schools to adopt emerging technology in their curricula.

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    Richard Friedman worked on Medicaid and Medicare cost containment for the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare 1974-76 when these programs were 9 percent of GDP – now at 18 percent. He has provided legal representation to hospitals and physician groups while in the private practice of law.

     

     

  • 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.

     

  • Meals on Wheels: Does the Trump Budget Cut It? Separating Facts from Political Spin

    One of the most devastating attacks on Pres. Trump’s proposed budget is that it cuts funding to Meals on Wheels. The program provides meals to the elderly poor.

    It is understandable that people would be upset about this prospect, which has received headlines but little real scrutiny.

    There are two main questions here:

    1. What tasks should government undertake?
    2. Does the Trump budget abandon a basic responsibility and seriously cut Meals on Wheels?

    The Government’s Core Responsibilities: Ensure aid to the poor and hungry

    No one should go hungry.

    Basic principle: If a country is wealthy enough to afford it, the state should ensure that everyone has access to healthy nutrition.

    It should compel taxes to ensure that and direct some of the funds to feeding the poor. It is a very good thing we have Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels, and other programs that do that.

    Some money is inevitably misspent, either by the government or recipients. But, in aiding the poor, we should remember the principle on which our criminal justice system is built:

    It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.

    -Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1760s)

    It is better to see some money misspent than to see one hungry person suffer.

    Meanwhile, we should work hard to eliminate the misspending so taxpayers are treated fairly and the money can go where it is needed.

    If a person is healthy and of working age, then it is reasonable to impose some work requirements in return for such aid, if voters wish.

    In a country with a vibrant civil society, then private assistance should be encouraged, as it is in the US, with wonderful effects for both givers and receivers.

    Did Trump’s Budget Cut Funds to Meal on Wheels?

    No, not really.

    The main federal funding for the program comes, appropriately, through the “Older Americans Act Nutrition Program.”

    There are no proposed cuts to that program, and Meals on Wheels says so.

    So what was the New York Times talking about when it reported the cuts and everyone else parroted their report?

    The Trump budget proposes:

    the complete elimination of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts. –New York Times

    So, you have one specific program cut. It is a controversial block grant program, which many consider corrupt, in which local officials have wide discretion in allocating the money. A small portion of that discretionary local allocation goes to Meals on Wheels.

    Comment: What the NYT said was technically accurate but fundamentally misleading because it did not indicate that such a small percentage of Meals on Wheels funding came from this source or that the source itself was controversial and considered corrupt by many. What makes the NYT report troubling is that it is, in effect, editorial commentary wedged into a hard news story.

    You can think the whole program should stay. Or you can think it should go. Or you can think, as I do, that it is fine to cut the block grant program but, if you do, then add resources to other programs that help the very poor.

    But whatever you think is the best policy, you should recognize that saying the budget wipes out Meals on Wheels is not only a vast exaggeration, it is political spin.

    Best Quick Summary

    This from Investors Business Daily:

    Contrary to news reports last week, President Trump is not eliminating funding for Meals on Wheels. He’s not even cutting it.

    How do we know this? Meals on Wheels says so. A statement issued by Meals on Wheels America on Thursday notes that 35% of the revenues at the 5,000 or so local Meals on Wheels programs come via the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program.

    Trump’s budget outline says nothing about this program whatsoever.

    What Trump’s budget does propose is cutting is the corruption-prone Community Development Block Grant program, run out of Housing and Urban Development. Some, but not all, state and local governments use a tiny portion of that grant money, at their own discretion, to “augment funding for Meals on Wheels,” according to the statement. –Investors Business Daily

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