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.
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
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.
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”
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
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
The California Legislature, in its wisdom, passed a law in 2015 requiring an internet site (IMDb) not to disclose any actor’s age if that actor requests that it not be published. The same law applies to directors and writers.
Jerry Brown, who raises money from these folks, just as the legislators do, naturally signed it into law.
If these people thought it was constitutional, then they have IQs smaller than their shoe sizes.
A sixth-grade civics class could tell you it violates the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
A pro-bono attorney, who graduated last in his class from the Lionel Hutz School of Law, could win this one.
At the time [our 9-year-old son] was consumed by violent rages. He would bang his head, scream for hours and literally eat his shirts. At dinnertime, he threw his plates so forcefully that there was food stuck on the ceiling. He would punch and scratch himself and others, such that people would look at the red streaks on our bodies and ask us, gingerly, if we had cats.
But when I got the cookies right, he calmed down. His aggressions became less ferocious and less frequent. Mealtimes became less fraught. He was able to maintain enough self-composure that he even learned how to ride a bike — despite every expert telling us it would never happen.
… It seemed like a miracle. And seven years later, it’s still working. –Marie Myung-Ok Lee (Chicago Tribune, originally in Washington Post)
Comment:The political wisdom of the Democrats’ strategy depends on their reasons. If they want essential financial and ethics information, the delay will be seen as justifiable. If there are not substantive reasons, then the Democrats will be seen as obstructionist, part of the swamp Trump promised to drain.
◆ “The stuff that dreams are made of” I just learned that Bogie ad libbed that line. It wasn’t in the script.
◆ Goodbye to two fine men: Nat Hentoff and Mario Soares
◆ Hentoff, aged 91, was a great jazz critic, a fierce defender of free speech, and prolific author. A true mensch. The NYT obituary is here.
◆ Putin wins his last round against Obama, says The Economist. Now, they say, he will have to hang on to power with that scapegoat. The story is here.
Comment:We’ll see. Putin is currently jousting with plenty of dragons around the world; perhaps they can serve as scapegoats. Trump clearly wants to shift relations with Russia; that explains his overtures and smooth relations with the Kremlin before he takes office. The question is what will happen to those relations after Trump faces his first crisis with Russia. (Remember, things went smoothly with Ted Cruz, too, until their interests clashed directly.)
Hand-picked and farm-fresh– ⇒Linked articles in bold purple
◆ That story about Russia hacking a Vermont utility . . . well, the investigation now goes in other directions and the Russians don’t seem to be involved. (Washington Post)
Comment: The WaPo deserves praise for openly criticizing its own reporting when the story broke.
◆ House guts its own ethics panel, overriding objections from Speaker Paul Ryan. Previously, the panel had been outside investigators, though they lacked the power to punish. Now the panel will be supervised by the House members themselves. The CNN report is here.
The proposal would bar the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, requiring that it turn over any complaint to the House Ethics Committee or refer the matter to an appropriate federal law enforcement agency. The House Ethics Committee would also have the power to stop an investigation at any point and bars the ethics office from making any public statements about any matters or hiring any communications staff. –CNN
Comment: The swamp creatures include legislators, as well as lobbyists.
◆ Experts fear North Korea may be developing dirty bombs that can be delivered by drones, making large areas radioactive. There is considerable uncertainty, however, about this conjecture by a South Korean think tank. (Popular Mechanics)
◆The NY Times goes to Texas to find out why the natives love trucks. It is much like a Victorian explorer mapping the territory of interior Africa. “Dr. Livingstone, I presume. What is this barbecue and local music you speak of?”
◆ When only one person shows up for services at Portland’s Episcopal cathedral, the seat of the Maine archdiocese, the priest conducts the services as normal. (Story in the Portland Press-Herald) It’s a sad state of affairs, another blow to a denomination in deep turmoil. (From a tweet by Brit Hume of Fox News)
Such a poor turnout for an evening service isn’t surprising given the national trends. Episcopal churches, like those of other mainline Protestant denominations, are far emptier than they used to be. The Episcopal Church in the United States says average Sunday worship attendance at its churches declined 26 percent between 2005 and 2015. The Diocese of Maine says it lost nearly 17 percent of its baptized members in that decade, although some congregations in southern Maine are growing. –Egan Millard (a reporter and the sole attendee) in the Portland, Maine, Press-Herald
The percentage of Americans moving every year is less than that of half a century ago and down significantly since the early 1990s.–Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner
◆ In Memory of Debbie Reynolds, a two-minute interview explaining her role in the greatest musical of all-time: “Singin’ in the Rain”
◆ Today in bizarre museums: there is actually something called the “Museum of Broken Relationships,” which opened originally in Croatia. Now, they have opened a branch in America, and they have picked the perfect city. Los Angeles. The AP story is here.
There is a consensus among the employees that the director has lost all credibility and that he cannot lead the bureau. They are comparing him to L. Patrick Gray, the disgraced former FBI director who threw Watergate papers into the Potomac River. The resistance to the director has made the agency incapable of action. … When the director said that it was a unanimous decision not to recommend prosecution, that was a lie. In fact, the people involved in the case were outraged at his decision, which he made by himself. When people realized that he was lying publicly about their role and when they knew he had approved of the destruction of laptops that were subject to congressional subpoena, that flipped the switch. –Jos. diGenova, quoted in the American Spectator
As Flynn puts it succinctly, “Agents trained to sniff out malfeasance smell something rotten here.” Look for whistleblowers who want to talk to Congress.
◆ From WikiLeaks, where a trove of information is being overlooked by mainstream media. This is a particularly chilling one:
John Anzalone to John Podesta (quoting Sen. Kirk of IL): “This agreement condemns the next generation to cleaning up a nuclear war in the Persian Gulf… This is the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler.”
John Podesta’s reply: “Yup.”
◆ John Podhoretz writes consistently interesting movie reviews for the Weekly Standard. This one, about Mel Gibson’s latest, Blood Father, goes beyond a movie review to ask an important ethical question: Can We Enjoy the Films of a Disgusting Human Being? Podhoretz calls it a “tough, smart, violent little movie” and praises it, if you like violent movies and can bear watching Gibson:
I’d recommend it unreservedly for those who like this kind of Breaking Bad fare but for one thing: Its star is Mel Gibson. People who’ve been watching movies for the past 30 years will not be surprised that Gibson is the best thing in the movie, since he’s usually the best thing in every movie he’s ever been in. What’s more, when he’s behind the camera, his direction is the best thing in the movies he makes. Gibson is a remarkably talented man. But people who’ve been following the news for the past decade also know he’s a genuinely disgusting human being—a basket of deplorables in and of himself, and likely irredeemably so. –John Podhoretz in the Weekly Standard
Comment: The moral quandary posed by Gibson’s movies came up for Jews in the 1950s. The parking lot of a synagogue would show no German cars (too closely associated with the Nazi era) and no Fords (a company founded by a notorious anti-Semite). It came up recently when the founder and major stockholder in Chick-Fil-A expressed views about gay marriage that many of his customers found repellant. I’m sure there are many people today who won’t stay in a Trump Hotel. For some, these choices are visceral. After all, Henry Ford was dead by the 1950s, and his son had openly disavowed those views. But customers also know that a small portion of their ticket price for a Gibson movie goes to a man they revile. Some of the profits from Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and Trump Hotels go to people they disapprove of. These can be vexing issues if you like the product and there are no ready substitutes. Kudos to Podhoretz for raising the issues here.