• ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 16

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

    Trump doubles down on moral equivalence, blaming all sides for violence in Charlottesville. 

    Comment: Not just a tactical mistake, IMO–an ethical travesty.

    It is a tactical mistake, of course, because it keeps this dreadful, wrenching story alive for several more days and will undoubtedly animate the crazies on the left.

    It is also true that some on the far left came to fight; so did some anarchists, who sided with them.

    But the main points are these:

    • The whole event occurred because the neo-Nazis and KKK came to town to “defend” the statue of Robert E. Lee
    • It was one of their number who actually killed somebody, and
    • In such times, the President’s first responsibility is to rise about partisanship and speak for the country as a whole, to act as a stabilizing presence.

    Trump failed.

    Speaking of failure…The American Bar Association wants undocumented/illegal immigrants to practice law (Law Newz)

    On Monday, The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates passed a resolution demanding that Congress let undocumented immigrants practice law…..

    A few states allow undocumented people to become lawyers. California started allowing some people to practice law thanks to a bill passed in 2013. –Law Newz

    Comment: There is zero chance a Republican Congress will pass, or Pres. Trump will sign, this proposed law.

    Still, the ABA’s vote is shocking, even as virtue signalling (which is what it is).

    Why? Because, whatever you call these immigrants (undocumented or illegal), their first act on American soil was to break the law. They entered the country illegally. They are still here illegally. To entrust them to serve as “officers of the court,” which all lawyers are, makes a mockery of that term.

    Congressional Black Caucus Chair says U.S. “Is Not the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” (CNS News)

    Comment: Part of their new outreach to Middle America?

    Provo, Utah, mayor John Curtis declares victory in race to success Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Salt Lake City Tribune)

    He ran as a conservative Republican (though he had been a Democrat in 2000). One opponent ran to his right; the other was a relative newcomer and less well-known.

    Attitudes toward Trump did not play a large role in the race, according to the Salt Lake City paper.

    Alabama: Primary for US Senate to replace Jeff Sessions: Runoff next month between Republicans, winner to face Democrat (Al.com)

    Roy Moore will face Luther Strange in a runoff for the Republican nomination on Sept. 26. The winner will face former U.S. attorney Doug Jones in December. –Al.com

    Luther Strange is currently sitting in the Senate, appointed by the Governor. He was endorsed by Mitch McConnell (who got Trump to endorse him) and had establishment money. But he underperformed badly in the primary.

    Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, who had support from conservative talk radio hosts, came in third–a major setback for them. Brooks will remain in the House and says he plans to run for reelection in 2018.

    Roy Moore, who led the field, is a very controversial figure, best known for his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from the state Judicial Building, despite a Federal Court order to do so. That refusal (in 2001) led to his removal from the bench; he had been Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2016, when he was again Chief Justice, he was suspended (and later resigned) for ordering lower-court judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, even though the ban had been overturned by Federal Courts.

    Comment: Moore praised Brooks on election night–a smart strategic move–and is now in a strong position to garner his votes as the most anti-establishment candidate.

    Because Moore is so controversial, expect this race to receive national attention.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Dead: Two More Republican Senators says “No” to the Revised Healthcare bill

    This evening’s declarations by Utah’s Mike Lee and Kansas’ Jerry Moran, plus earlier statements by Maine’s Susan Collins and Kentucky’s Rand Paul, means there are four declared “no” votes. (Brief story here in the Washington Post.)

    With only 52 Republicans in the Senate and all Democrats and independents voting “no,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot get to the minimum 50 he needs.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    What happens now?

    The big questions now:

    • What happens to the American health insurance system, which is now melting down under the weight of Obamacare’s malfunctions and heavy subsidies?
    • What kind of patchwork reforms will be put in place this year?
      • Democrats will want a huge say, but rank-and-file Republicans won’t like that and may try to block the Democrats’ proposals.
    • Who pays the political price for this fiasco?
      • Who is hurt more politically? The Democrats by the Obamacare mess they inflicted on the nation? Or the Republicans by their failure to fulfill their repeated promise to repeal and replace it?
      • What happens to the split between moderate Democrats and progressive single-payer advocates?
      • What happens to the split between modern Republicans and more conservative legislators who want to roll back entitlements?
  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, July 12: All Donald Jr.

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

     Trump, Jr.’s troubles  The news is important, and we need to know more. The front page of the Washington Post captures the range of issues.

    Comments:

    What does the email chain mean?

    It means that

    • Trump Jr. knew (or thought he did) that the Russian government was trying to aid his father’s campaign by providing information on Hillary.
    • He wanted to cooperate with them if they had information
    • All his prior statements and those of the campaign that they were not having any meetings with the Russians were false, and they knew they were false
    • He, Kushner, and Manafort, who, as an experienced pol, should have known better, were effectively  drawn into an “information honey trap”
    • They didn’t already have good ties to the Kremlin, which means they had probably not been colluding (but sure looks like they wanted to do so)
    • They apparently still do not  grasp that this is far over the line of appropriate conduct in a US presidential race since it involves collaborating with a foreign adversary; that is true, whether or not the transaction violated any laws

    What else do we need to know? 

    Lots.

    We need to understand, among other things

    • Who was behind this, both in the US and in Russia?
    • What was their goal? Entrapment or future collaboration? Something else?
    • What links does the Russian lawyer have, in Russia and in the US?
    • What internal communications got Kushner and Manafort into the room for this meeting?
    • What other meetings did any high-level Trump staffers have with Russian operatives?
    • Where were the campaign’s legal team during this fiasco?
    • Did the Clinton campaign team have any similar meetings with foreign powers?

    One more thing: it is now obvious (at least to me) that the Russians have succeeded far beyond what they hoped for–and it is damaging to them because it blocks any conceivable glide path to better relations with the US in the near future.

    The domestic political implications are serious, even if this doesn’t go much further.

    Trump is weakened and his policy agenda is impeded as a result. Independently elected officials will edge away from him unless he squashes these legitimate questions with real answers.

    If there is more to the attempted collaboration, then the implications are far more serious.

    If it turns out to be a honey trap that somehow involved the Democrats, they will suffer, too.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, July 11

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

     NYT: Trump Jr was told by email that his meeting with a Russian lawyer was part of a Kremlin effort to aid their campaign  The NYT has not seen the email but has been told about it by 3 anonymous people.

    Trump Jr’s lawyer says it is “much ado about nothing” and that he was simply meeting with someone who might have info that could help the campaign.

    In fairness, the Times notes that Trump Jr. has said he would be willing to meet with Congressional investigators and that he

    had a reputation during the campaign for having meetings with a wide range of people eager to speak to him, did not join his father’s administration. He runs the family business, the Trump Organization, with his brother Eric.

    Comment: The fact that Jr’s story has changed several times is not a good sign for him; it suggests he has something to conceal.

    The better news for him is that it strongly indicates to me they did not already have good contacts with the Russians (a point that I have not seen made elsewhere). If that is true, it is strong evidence that they had not been colluding prior to the June 2016.

    Final point: we don’t know yet if this meeting was a dirty trick. Could be–but if it was then why wouldn’t the Clinton people have revealed it during the campaign? They would have. So that seems unlikely.

     US soldier arrested in Hawaii for allegedly joining ISIS  (NBC)

    Ikaika Erik Kang was a convert to Islam and some of his statements lauded Hitler.

    Comment: Proper sentence: send him to Mosul for join his friends.

     Two studies say drinking more coffee leads to longer life (CNN)

    Comment: More fine research from the Starbucks Institute for Science.

     FDA: opioid pharma companies must comply with new, tougher rules to train doctors on using the painkillers properly  (Washington Post)

    Comment: A small but welcome step.

     Chicago Sun-Times Editorial: Illinois should lead the way in solar energy

    Comment: No it shouldn’t. States with a lot of sunshine should lead the way.  They have the obvious advantage.

    If Illinois wants to lead the way in energy, it should use its advantage and focus on better energy use in cold weather. Conservation is an equally important part of an overall energy strategy.

     Texas judge suspended after admitting she used ecstacy and marijuana and sexted her bailiff (Daily Mail) She also misrepresented her relationship with a convicted swindler to conceal drug purchases from him.

    Her former boyfriend [whom she was seeing while she was married] also said that they used Backpage.com on two occasions to hire prostitutes for threesomes. He said Green paid $150 to a prostitute in Houston on one occasion, and $200 to a prostitute in Austin on another.  –Daily Mail

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • Occasional Quotes: Divided America

    We all know how deeply divided the country is.

    Sometimes, though, a small, seemingly-insignificant item can reveal the depths in a new way.

    That’s how I felt when I read this.

    This is a paragraph in a New York Times news article (link here) about Megyn Kelly and the controversy surrounding her bumpy rollout at NBC, most recently involving the interview with conspiracy theorist and radio personality, Alex Jones.

    But the comment was not about Megyn.

    It was about a small, playful incident (utterly forgotten by me) involving Jimmy Fallon and Donald Trump.

    “It’s Jimmy Fallon tousling Trump’s hair,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center for media and society at the University of Southern California, likening the Kelly-Jones tempest to the moment last fall that is widely considered to have caused lasting damage to Mr. Fallon, NBC’s “Tonight Show” host–New York Times

    Lasting damage? Good Lord.

    Apparently, even playing with and humanizing Donald Trump is unacceptable to the other side.

    You do not have to support Trump–or even like him–to find that a startling piece of news about America’s divide.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 17

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

     Sailors missing after US destroyer collides with container ship off Japan  (Washington Post)

    The cause of the collision is not yet know. The US ship is not in danger of sinking but needs to be towed back to port. The container ship is safe, as well.

    Comment: Somebody screwed up big-time.

     Obituary: Helmut Kohl, Chancellor who reunited Germany after fall of Berlin Wall (New York Times)

    Comment: Kohl knew that integrating East Germany would be difficult and costly, but he also knew that the chance for a reunited Germany might not come again. With US support (from George H. W. Bush), he overcame behind-the-scenes objections from France and England. The US brushed aside Soviet objections to integrating all Germany in NATO. Actually, the Soviets were ambivalent because they did not want a rich, powerful, united Germany to have an independent military. In short, Kohl presided over a world-historical change.

     Lawsuit threatened to recover records Comey “unlawfully removed” from the FBI (Fox News)

    Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply. –Fox News

    Comment: To me, these records are unambiguously US public documents and ought to be returned and released unless they contain classified materials–in which case the FBI will simply leak them to the New York Times or Washington Post.

     Amazon to buy Whole Foods, which will continue to operate under its name  (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Analysts said they expect Amazon eventually to use the stores to promote private-label products, integrate and grow its artificial-intelligence-powered Echo speakers, boost Prime membership and entice more customers into the fold. . . .

    Whole Foods has come under fire as traditional grocers offer more natural and organic items, which are Whole Foods’ mainstay. Its shares had lost nearly half their value since a 2013 peak, and sales at stores open at least a year had slumped. –WSJ

    Comment: I think the key here is going to be home delivery.

    Amazon’s goal is to provide us every good and service without our leaving home.

     Speaker Paul Ryan: Stand back and let Robert Mueller do his job  (Washington Examiner)

    Comment: He’s smart and Donald Trump would do well to follow it unless there is concrete evidence of malfeasance or vast overreach by Mueller’s office. That’s also Rod Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department

    But there is a problem in the potential scope of Mueller’s inquiry, which blends counter-intelligence (no limits) with possible US criminal violations.

     Miami Herald: Trump’s new Cuba policy is too much for some, not enough for others  (Miami Herald)

    Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased. –Miami Herald

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 13

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

     Reports that Trump is considering firing Mueller as Special Counsel  (New York Times)

    The comments came from a Trump friend, Christopher Ruddy, but the White House would not confirm them.

    His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.

    “Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”

    Allies of the president cast doubt on the idea that Mr. Trump would take such a drastic step, and White House officials said Mr. Ruddy had not met directly with the president while he was there.

    Comment: Firing Mueller is within the President’s authority, but it would set off fireworks since they would appear that Trump could not withstand an investigation.

    Mueller, however, has done himself no favors by hiring major Democratic donors for his staff. His friendship with Comey is also a problem and should be reason enough for him to recuse himself from that portion of the investigation.

    Comey got a “steely silence” from Loretta Lynch when he confronted her over political interference in Hillary investigation (Circa)

    Ex-FBI Director James Comey has privately told members of Congress that he had a frosty exchange with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year when he confronted her about possible political interference in the Hillary Clinton email investigation after showing Lynch a sensitive document she was unaware the FBI possessed, according to sources who were directly briefed on the matter. –Circa

    Comment: Sure looks like Lynch was in the tank for Clinton.

    AG Jeff Sessions will testify publicly before the Senate Intel Committee Tuesday  (Washington Post)

    The Democrats are in attack mode.

    Democrats plan to ask about his contacts during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which the attorney general failed to disclose fully during his confirmation hearing.

    They also want him to explain his role in the firing of Comey, despite the attorney general’s recusal in March from the Russia investigation after revelations about his meetings with Kislyak. –Washington Post

    Comment: The Democrats have made incendiary assertions about Sessions having improper meetings with the Russians and lying about them.

    But so far, there is simply no evidence of anything wrong. That’s what the hearings will be about.

     North Korea sent drones to spy on US anti-missile system in South Korea  (Reuters)

    The drone crashed on its way home.

    Comment: All this effort to spy, so little effort to feed and clothe the tyrannized population.

     France’s Macron: in a year and a half, he came out of nowhere to win the Presidency and now dominate the National Assembly (New York Times)

    Comment: Parties of the right and left have collapsed. Now, Macron is in a position to move a major reform agenda.

     The Palestinian Authority wants to pressure Hamas, so they have asked Israel to cut back on electricity supplies to Gaza. Israel has agreed.  (Los Angeles Times)

    Israel has approved a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cut by roughly a third the electricity it provides to the Gaza Strip.

    The move is aimed at undermining the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for the last decade.

    But the decision reached Sunday by Israel’s security Cabinet is stoking concern that it could trigger a humanitarian crisis among Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians and a new round of fighting between Hamas and Israel.

    In a statement on Monday afternoon responding to news of the Israeli decision, Hamas said that power cuts are “dangerous” and would lead to an “explosion.” –Los Angles Times

    Comment: Hamas is under considerable pressure, given the Muslim Brotherhood loss of power in Egypt, the sanctions on Qatar, and increasing resistance from international donors, who are themselves under pressure for funding terrorism indirectly.

    Although Israel is no friend of the Palestinian Authority, they know Hamas is much worse.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦