• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 13

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

    ◆ Very good economic news, twice over

    Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.

    The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.

    U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.

    Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today

    Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.

    Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests

    He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.

    The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.

    Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.

    If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

    As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.

    No improvement in the horrific California wildfires. Death toll above 30 and expected to rise (Los Angeles Times)

    15 fires have burned over 200k acres so far.

    Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines

    Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.

    Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.

    Conservatives are furious at Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans for the very slow pace at which Trump appointees are approved (Daily Signal)

    Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.

    But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 21

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

    ◆ Puerto Rico: direct hit by Cat 4 hurricane. Massive damage, whole Island without power

    An overview of the impact (New York Times)  

    The NYT is providing live updates here.

    Mexico’s massive 7.1 earthquake. Death total already 245, likely to rise  (Washington Post)

    The saddest stories are coming from K-12 schools, where parents await the fate of children. A lot of interest is focused on one hope story of a child trapped alive.

     As the Democratic party shifts left and makes Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare a vital issue, centrist Dems face 2018 problems (Fox News)

    If Democrats in purple or red states go with single-payer, they will pay the price in the general election.

    If they reject it, though, they could face a primary opponent from the left (mirroring the Tea Party attacks on centrist Republicans).

    Comment: There is one piece of good news for Democrats, however. Their general election opponents are Republicans, who have a woeful record on Capitol Hill this session.

    Big Deal: Chinese banks reportedly cut ties to North Korea (Fox News)

    This is huge since China is the conduit for all North Korea’s international trade.

    The bad news is that South Korea is providing a small “humanitarian” gift to North Korea at the same time.

    Comment: Good as humanitarian aid sounds, it always gives leverage to dictatorships, which use the money for themselves and their favorites.

    I assume that North Korea will turn to Russia and Iran for financing, but they would face financial peril themselves if they provide it.

    Trump praises China’s new sanctions against North Korea and ratchets up US sanctions (CNN)

    Comment: The US measures show it has not run out of “non-kinetic” options.

    China’s measures show both that it is frustrated with North Korea’s reckless, autonomous actions and that it fears what the US might do.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup: Breaking News for Tuesday, August 8

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

    ◆ BREAKING: North Korea now making miniaturized, missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say (Washington Post)

    North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded in a confidential assessment.

    The new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller. –Washington Post, reporting on Defense Intelligence Agency

     

    North Korea’s dangerous game: Trump is not Obama (BESA, Israeli think tank)

    Pyongyang uses the buzz that accompanies its ballistic missile and nuclear tests, as well as the obscurity that conceals the extent of its infrastructure for weapons grade fissile materials production and nuclear weaponization, as tools with which to challenge Washington. Trump is not Obama, however. Kim Jong-un will need to tread carefully to avoid provoking an American preemptive strike. — Raphael Ofek for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

     Robust US economy: Record number of job openings (Bloomberg)

    The gain in job openings underscores the need for workers in an economy that’s continuing to expand. At the same time, the pool of qualified Americans is shrinking and making some positions tougher to fill, one reason economists expect the monthly pace of hiring will eventually cool. –Bloomberg

    Comment: Great news. Now, to get wages moving up and people trained to fill those openings.

     Google fires author of viral memo on the downside of diversity hiring (Bloomberg)

    Google was already being sued for discrimination, and some executives said that, after the memo, they could not “in good conscience” assign some people to work the memo’s author, James Damore. They claimed his memo “perpetuated gender stereotypes.”

    Mr. Damore’s own response, which virtually nobody prints begins this way:

    I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.
    Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber. –James Damore

    James Damore’s complete, original memo and response are here (Medium.com)

    Comment:

    • Expect him to sue.
    • Expect him to find it hard to gain employment in Silicon Valley.
    • Expect an honest discussion of these issues to become impossible.

    More troubles for Obamacare: Major insurers keep leaving the marketplace (Fox News)

    Exchanges are now down to 3 states. Insurers lost over $1 billion in last two years.

     

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama’s old hospital drops major Obamacare insurance program

    Valerie Jarrett chaired the board of the University of Chicago Hospitals until she moved to Washington.

    While there, she naturally employed her friend, Michelle Obama; this is Chicago and such favors are expected.

    Kudos to Valerie, though, for going above and beyond: she tripled Michelle’s salary after Barack was elected to the US Senate.

    Ah, coincidences.

    Now, the Chicago Tribune reports (link here)

    Thousands of low-income patients may have to scramble to find new doctors this month after University of Chicago Medicine became the latest major health system to break up with IlliniCare Health, an insurer that administers benefits for the state’s Medicaid program.

    U. of C. Medicine follows Northwestern Medicine and Advocate Health Care in walking away from IlliniCare Health, one of 12 Medicaid managed care organizations in the state. Medicaid managed care organizations are insurers that handle benefits for Medicaid, a state- and federally funded health insurance program for the poor. –Chicago Tribune

    Meanwhile, the deadbeat state of Illinois “still owes Medicaid managed care organizations about $3.5 billion,” according to the Tribune.

    Comment: Thank goodness the Republicans are busy repealing and replacing this clunker after 7 years of promising. Sarcasm off.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 19

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

     Terror attack in London, killing and injuring Muslims as they left Ramadan prayers. We already know it was deliberate. We’ll know more soon about the motives. The initial indications are that the 48-year-old man wanted to kill Muslims as a hate crime. But, again, details are still sketchy.

    Comment: The rise of political, religious, and ethnic hatred and killing because of that hatred is one of the most troubling developments in Europe and the US.

    Democrats have no affirmative plans on health, so they turn to a familiar tactic: obstruct.

    Democrats planning to slow GOP efforts to vote on ObamaCare by July 4 (Fox News)

    Their complaint: the Republicans are drafting the bill behind closed doors and not allowing Democrats to participate.

    Comment: They Democrats are understandably upset about being excluded. But no one on the Democratic side has said they would vote for any repeal-and-replace bill. They have said they will talk only if the R’s agree to tweak the ACA. Since the R’s are committed to replacing Obamacare, it’s hard to see why they would invite the fox into the hen house. 

    ◆ Washington Post editorial: “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag”

    But the government’s price tag would be astonishing. When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed a “Medicare for all” health plan in his presidential campaign, the nonpartisan Urban Institute figured that it would raise government spending by $32 trillion over 10 years, requiring a tax increase so huge that even the democratic socialist Mr. Sanders did not propose anything close to it.

    The goal still must be universal coverage and cost restraint. But no matter whether the government or some combination of parties is paying, that restraint will come slowly, with cuts to the rate of increase in medical costs that make the system more affordable over time. –Washington Post editorial

    Comment: The standard solution to these high costs is to ration care. Typically, governments also impose cost controls which discourage innovation and channel potential doctors and nurses into other fields.

    The fact that support for single-payer is now a litmus test for California Democrats is stunning. It would cost 2.5 times the current state budget.

     “Flounder” of Animal House has died Stephen Furst, who remained proud of his role as a hapless doofus, had heart problems brought on by diabetes.  He had other roles, but “Kent Dorfman” (Flounder) was his timeless one.

    Comment: Flounder (the character’s name was Kent Dorfman) was less famous for the lines he said in Animal House than for something said to him. He was on the receiving end of the best advice every given by a college administrator, when Dean Vernon Wurmer told him, “Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is no way to go through life, son.” He concluded that scene famously by responding to Wurmer’s command, “Out with it.” 

    He also played the central role in the “horse scene” (here). “I didn’t even point the gun at him!”

     Megyn Kelly and NBC “take the gloves off in Alex Jones interview–and now he’s mad” (Los Angeles Times)

    Megyn Kelly presented a highly critical 19-minute piece on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine “Sunday Night” after a week of harsh criticism over the decision to present his views on network TV.

    Jones is notorious for saying the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was staged to promote tougher gun control laws. Twenty-six people, including 20 children, died, making it the second-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time. –LA Times

    They even brought Tom Brokaw onto the show to say the grieving Newtown parents “should not have to hear the cruel claim that it’s a lie.”

    Comment: Good point, Tom. But your bosses completely undercut it by giving a platform to the man who spread this “cruel claim that it’s a lie.”

    Why did NBC do it? To sell viewers’ eyeballs to advertisers, of course.

    Megyn Kelly and NBC made the despicable decision to climb into this ditch. They shouldn’t be surprised they got covered in mud.

    ◆ Good News: Cong. Steve Scalise’s condition upgraded to “serious” after the Virginia shooting (CNN)

    Comment: Great news.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, May 25

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

     Now, the Brits are hunting in Libya for some members of the Manchester terror cell.

    They’ve already made a half-dozen arrests, including the bomber’s brother, in the UK  (New York Times)

    Officials were looking into reports that people who knew Mr. Abedi — including an imam at his mosque — had contacted the authorities as early as 2015 with concerns that he may have been recruited by extremists. –New York Times

    Comment: The police, overwhelmed with tips, sometimes drop the ball. That’s always disturbing, but it would be more disturbing if they shied away for PC reasons. That’s been a problem for UK police. Here, for example, is the Manchester police apologizing for a 2016 training exercise that resembled an Islamist attack.

     Meanwhile, UK officials are furious that the NYT published secret information about the crime (BBC) The UK had shared it with the US. The Brits believes the leakers were US police, not the White House.

     Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter running circles around the MSM, this time on Obama Administration illegal spying on Americans

    How bad was it? Bad enough that the lap dog FISA court judges were infuriated by the deceit and illegal action.

     Congressional Budget Office says Trump-Ryan health plan will be budget neutral but leave 23 million more uninsured over a decade (Associated Press)

    The report said older people with lower income would disproportionately lose coverage. Over half of those becoming uninsured, 14 million people, would come from the bill’s $834 billion in cuts to Medicaid, which provides health coverage to poor and disabled people, over 10 years. –AP

    Comment: These numbers are disturbing but it compares this bill to Obamacare on the assumption that the ACA will survive. It won’t. It’s melting down and to save it would cost trillions.

     Mike Flynn has clammed up, but Paul Manafort has given Congressional investigators his documents related to Russian contacts (Washington Post)

    ◆ Richard Friedman on NATO’s purpose today (ZipDialog post)

     Who controls the South China Sea? China claims it, but it is an international waterway, and the US ensures it. The US navy sends occasional ships through to make sure it is open. Now, the US navy is conducting its first such operation of the Trump presidency. (CNN)

     Today in PC lunacy: White women’s burrito shop is forced to close after being hounded with accusations it was ‘culturally appropriating Mexican food and jobs’ (Daily Mail) In Portland, naturally.

    Comment: The city will give up Hindu-Arabic numerals when they discover they were invented in South Asia in the 6th or 7th century  and stolen from those poor folks. (Britannica)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Fred Lawson
     for the Manchester police apology
    ◆ Tim Favero and Tom Elia for the burrito story; they clearly know me!

  • Aetna waves goodbye to Obamacare

    This is today’s story that affects the most people. It represents the continuing instability of Obamacare and the exchanges that were its centerpiece.


    Aetna drops last 2 state markets under Affordable Care Act (Houston Chronicle)

    While Republicans rewrite the Affordable Care Act in Washington, the future of the current law has grown hazier with the nation’s third-largest health insurer completely divorcing itself from state-based insurance markets.

    Aetna said this week that it won’t sell individual coverage next year in its two remaining states – Nebraska and Delaware – after projecting a $200 million loss this year. It had already dropped Iowa and Virginia for next year. The insurer once sold the coverage in 15 states, but slashed that to four after losing about $450 million in 2016. –Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle


    Comment: With Aetna gone, I imagine Acme will step in to fill the gap.