• 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.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, May 31

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

     US anti-missile success over Pacific is a huge technological achievement. 

    The tasks now: keep improving the technology, keep testing, and start producing them for deployment

    These anti-missile systems are not designed to deal with a massive attack, such as one China or Russia could launch.

    They are meant to deal with rogue nations or, conceivably, an accidental launch.

    Snarky Comment about those who fought hard to stop these systems: I don’t agree with those who say that the West Coast and Hawaii should not be protected since their Senators and Congressman–and their voters–have opposed missile defense every step of the way for 35 years. True, if they had succeeded, their cities would be the first ones at risk. But leaving them defenseless, as they actually wished to be, would be very ungenerous. 

    Still, it will be interesting to see if their Senators and House members will vote for these systems even now. After all, they might end up voting for a defense bill.

    And while the folks on Nob Hill and Pacific Palisades look down their noses at the rest of America, they might want to pause and remember who worked so hard to save their sorry butts from their ill-considered judgments.

     Illinois, which models its finances on Greece and Puerto Rico, enters the last day of the legislative session without a budget. This is getting to be a habit.  (Chicago Tribune story here.)

    Comment: You can guess the story. Who controls the legislature? Mike Madigan and the Democrats. Who is the governor? A republican. Who wants few cuts, big tax increases, and no reforms to a system that has been running on fumes for years? Oh, go ahead, guess.

    Odd, isn’t it, how the low-tax states now have public services as least as good as the high-tax states? What that means is that you don’t get more potholes fixed if you pay higher taxes. You just get the same number fixed but pay higher wages and benefits to public-sector unions and to a paving contractor who knows a guy.

    Meanwhile, Illinois’ neighboring states of Wisconsin and Indiana have put their financial houses in order. Indiana is especially well run and has been for years.

     “Kathy Griffin apologizes for severed Donald Trump head photo after backlash  (Washington Post)

    Would she have apologized if Hollywood applauded (as they may well have done, privately)?

    In fact, everybody condemns it, as they should. It is disgusting. And it shows how low our public mudslinging has gotten.

    Even CNN is “rethinking” Ms. Griffin’s participation in their cash-cow show on New Year’s Eve.

    Comment: But I was more struck by how CNN presented the episode on its main web page. It illustrates what corporate fecklessness truly is.

    Here is the ONLY thing CNN has to say about Kathy Griffin there (early morning 5/31/17). She’s just “political.” Gosh. And we learn that she begs forgiveness (from whom, I wonder?).

    A reputable news organization would have headlined the vile act, not the apology, and they would not have worked so hard to protect their asset by spinning it as “political.” But then again, they are CNN.

    Kudos to Anderson Cooper, who did the right thing. Griffin’s co-host on New Year’s Eve publicly tweeted that he found it disgusting and unacceptable. Exactly right.

    Btw, ask yourself what would have happened if she had done this with the head of Pres. Obama. I can tell you. She would never work another day in her life. And she would never attend another dinner party or reception. For Trump’s head, she will suffer some, especially on TV, where advertisers will shy away. But she won’t miss a single cocktail party in Hollywood and, after a month of apologies, she’ll be working again and telling funny stories about how “shocked” people were but were privately giving her high-fives.

     Opioid Epidemic spurs race to find safer painkillers  (ScienceNews.org)

    The need for new pain medicines is “urgent,” says Nora Volkow [director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse].

    Scientists have been searching for effective alternatives for years without success. But a better understanding of the way the brain sends and receives specific chemical messages may finally boost progress.

    Scientists are designing new, more targeted molecules that might kill pain as well as today’s opioids do — with fewer side effects. Others are exploring the potential of tweaking existing opioid molecules to skip the negative effects. And some researchers are steering clear of opioids entirely, testing molecules in marijuana to ease chronic pain.

    Comment: Lots of research but no breakthroughs, so far. US prescriptions for opioids have fallen a bit since 2012 but are still around 250 million annually and have been since 2006.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sat-Sun, May 13-14

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

    SPECIAL, NO POLITICS EDITION

     Another amazing genetic discovery. By accident, cancer researchers seem to have discovered the genes that make you go bald or get gray hair (Fox)

    Comment:  “Now you come up with this,” said the late Yul Brenner.

    A patch to protect your older PC from Ransomeware  (PC Mag)

    Comment: IMO, the crooks who did this should also be changed with harming the hospital patients affected.

    Brockmire (Hank Azaria) interviewed on NPR 

    Comment: As ZipDialog readers know, I’m a fan.

     Pope says Church has sex-abuse backlog of 2,000 cases (AP)

    Comment: Terrible situation, but good the Pope acknowledges it.

     Another university caves, disinvites speaker (Washington Post)

    Comment: Spineless administrators

     RIP, Allen Meltzer: free-market economist who helped end the great inflation of the 1970s  He and Paul Volcker were crucial in that Reagan-era effort.

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  • Wildly funny new series about minor league baseball . . . and sex: “Brockmire”

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    I laughed out loud at the first two episodes, all that IFC has telecast so far.

    The Simpsons‘ Hank Azaria is brilliant, playing a washed-up baseball announcer. Amanda Peet is excellent as the team owner, trying to revive the forlorn team in a forlorn town.

    If you liked “Bull Durham” and like raunchy humor, you’ll love it. Here’s the New York Times’ very positive review.

    (I wonder how long I’ll enjoy it, but that’s another matter. Won’t know til I try.)

    The premise is simple. Brockmire is a great major-league announcer (think “Bob Uecker”) until, on his anniversary, he comes home to surprise his wife and finds her (we are told) in the midst of a sexual Bacchanalia. He goes back to the stadium, broadcasts the game, but gets drunk and goes into a career-ending rant about what his wife did.

    A decade later, we find him back at a minor-league baseball park in a declining small town, making one last stab at getting back in the broadcasting booth. His self-pity hysterically funny, matched, as it is, with his pitch-perfect announcer’s voice.

    This clip is not from the series itself–it’s from the Funny or Die shorts that preceded it–but it gives you a sense of Brockmire’s life before he ended up in Pennsylvania, broadcasting for the “Frackers.”

     

     

     

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 6

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

     The new healthcare bill, replacing Obamacare, has been introduced in the House. Keeps several key (and expensive) features of Obamacare and adds tax credits (direct cash payments) to help poor pay for coverage. No mandates.

    • As specialists begin offering detailed commentary, I will include summaries.
    • As political battlelines form, I will include stories and excerpts.

     Robert Osborne, warm and knowledgeable host of Turner Classic Movies, dead at 84. (New York Times)

    He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world. –Steven Spielberg on Robert Osborne

     Self-driving bus with no backup driver will soon be on the road in California. Part of a pilot program. (Reuters)

    The bus project in San Ramon, at the Bishop Ranch office park complex, involves two 12-passenger shuttle buses from French private company EasyMile.

    The project is backed by a combination of private companies and public transit and air quality authorities, with the intention of turning it into a permanent, expanded operation . . . .

    California legislators late last year passed a law to allow slow-speed testing of fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals on public roads, with the Bishop Ranch test in mind. –Reuters

     South Korea receives US missile defense system, strongly opposed by China  (CNN)

    Comment: Quick heads up for Beijing: A lot more of this is coming, including stronger US-Japanese ties, and you know why. It’s your wingman in Pyongyang, plus your own aggressive moves in the South China Sea. The THAAD missile system is, of course, solely to defend against North Korean missiles. China has a large arsenal that could overwhelm it.

     Big new Exxon investments in chemical and oil refining plants. $20 billion, 12k permanent jobs, plus 35k construction jobs building the plants in Texas and Louisiana (Reuters)

    The plants had been planned for some time but their scope has grown significantly.

     New findings from the University of the Obvious: “Sex might make you happier at work, study says”  (New York Daily News)

    The U of O always does great work.

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 5

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

    Goldwater Institute proposes model free speech code for public universities–one that legislatures could pass

    The key provisions in this model legislation are inspired by three classic defenses of campus free speech: Yale’s 1974 Woodward Report, The University of Chicago’s 1967 Kalven Report, and the University of Chicago’s 2015 Stone Report.

    The model legislation presented and explained in this brief does several things:

    • It creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
    • It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
    • It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
    • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
    • It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
    • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
    • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

    Taken together, these provisions create a system of interlocking incentives designed to encourage students and administrators to respect and protect the free expression of others. –Goldwater Institute’s “Campus Free Speech: A Legislative Proposal”

     Hundreds plan to moon Chicago’s Trump Tower in protest  Below is the actual ad for the event:

    Comment: Expected to show up at the event

     Obit for an old-time Chicago Cop who kept his nose clean. Instead of being promoted to Superintendent of Police, he was demoted to the midnight shift in a high-crime area (Chicago Tribune)

    In 1979, when Pope John Paul II came to Chicago, Joe DiLeonardi was Acting Superintendent of Police and expected to be named to the job permanently. Highly regarded, he working to clean up the department and promote minorities. Yet, within two years, he was working at a low-grade police job at the airport and then demoted even further to the midnight shift in a high-crime neighborhood.

    What did he do wrong, you might ask?

    Simple enough, he wanted to root-out organized crime and its political connections. Mayor Jane Byrne, elected as a “reform mayor,” wasn’t having it. In 1980, DiLeonard told the Chicago Tribune that

    two of Byrne’s top aides demanded the ouster of the department’s most prominent fighter of organized crime, and blamed influence from the mobbed-up 1st Ward organization. DiLeonardi’s successor, Richard Brzeczek, denied the allegations. …

    DiLeonardi was said to be the inspiration for “Kojak,” the nattily attired TV detective played by Telly Savalas. –Chicago Tribune

     “Judge Breaks Precedent, Orders Google to Give Foreign Emails to FBI” (Gizmodo)

    A potentially major blow for privacy advocates occurred on Friday when a U.S. magistrate ruled against Google and ordered it to cooperate with FBI search warrants demanding access to user emails that are stored on servers outside of the United States. The case is certain to spark a fight, because an appeals court ruled in favor of Microsoft in a similar case recently. –Gizmodo

     “China Assails U.S. Pledge to Defend Disputed Islands Controlled by Japan” (New York Times)

    The disputed [Diaoyu or Senkaku] islands have been among a number of potential points of contention as China builds up its presence in the East and South China Seas.

    Chinese and Japanese vessels regularly maneuver at close quarters in the waters as China tries to challenge Japan’s control of the islands. –New York Times

    The islands have different names, depending on the nations claiming them.

     Great Tweet:

    Actually, Fielding Mellish looks like ZZ Top.

     If you don’t know who “Fielding Mellish” is, then you really ought to see Woody Allen’s early movie, Bananas. The best 1-minute scene in it doesn’t star Woody; it stars a mad dictator

     

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Clarice Feldman
     for the Goldwater Institute’s Free Speech proposal

     

  • RIP Barbara Hale, who played “Della Street” on Perry Mason

    I love the Perry Mason show. I still watch it, mostly for the camaraderie–a combination of friendship and professional respect–among the three principals: Perry, Della, and Paul. One reason Della (Barbara Hale) joined the show was her old friendship with Raymond Burr.

    I had just finished watching another old episode when I read the sad news that “Della Street” had died.

    Barbara Hale was 94. The New York Times obituary is here.

    She never seemed unhappy about being identified with one character throughout her career. In 1993 she told the Chicago Tribune that Della Street was “a woman who knew what everybody was thinking.”

    “She was informed and very observant of everything that went on,” she continued. “That was my challenge as an actress, to be a necessary part of the office without being too aggressive.” –New York Times

    Variety’s obituary is here.