• When the news breaks, take a break from TV

    Rule #1 during events like those in Charlottesville: do NOT watch TV for more than a few minutes at a time.

    To keep up, occasionally click on your favorite “breaking news” website.

    Depending on your tastes, that could be Drudge, CNN, MSNBC, Fox, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Associated Press.

    Of course, once they start interpreting the story, they’ll spin it in their familiar ways.

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    The current news from Charlottesville can be summarized in less than two minutes, tops, and the networks have 24 hours to fill. They will fill them with high drama, idiotic confrontations, and conjectures, mixed with hard reporting and intelligent commentary. How wild can the conjectures get? When CNN was covering the missing Malaysia airliner, they asked experts if extraterrestrials were to blame.

    Intentionally or not, the cable channels heighten viewers’ anxiety with flashing alerts and breathless reporting, following by a sincere look, a bite of the lip, and a calm, “Our thoughts and prayers go out…” So do the thoughts and prayers of the extraterrestrials, I’m guessing. For more on that, tune to CNN.

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    To show you how briefly the real news can be summarized, here is what we know now (as of 6:15 pm, August 12):
    1. White supremacy and neo-Nazi marchers descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a public park.
    2. Counter-marchers also showed up to protest the white-supremacy types. We don’t know what kinds of groups were involved in the counter-protest.
    3. The two groups clashed violently, despite a large presence of local and state police.
    4. A car deliberately accelerated into the counter-marchers, killing one immediately and leaving about two dozen more injured.
      • The car sped away, but the driver was soon captured. His name, motivation, and organizational connections have not been disclosed.
    5. A helicopter crashed nearby but details on that are still sketchy. Two people were killed
    6. That makes three people dead (so far), according to Virginia police.
    7. Donald Trump strongly condemned the violence, urging all sides to respect each other and avoid further violence.
      • Virginia’s state officials and those from Charlottesville issued similar statements, adding that the white nationalists should “go home.”
    8. Significantly, Pres. Trump failed to single out the White nationalists in his condemnation of the violence.
      • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) immediately tweet a criticism of the President, urging Trump to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis.

    That’s what we know so far. A newscaster could read it, with appropriate video playing in the background, in under two minutes.

    But they have hours to fill. Instead of filling it with serious and illuminating talk, they will fill it with repetition and, within a few hours, snarling political adversaries.

    Skip it and keep your blood pressure down.

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  • 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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