• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 24

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

     Healthcare bill:

    • Another Republican Senator says no (that’s 5).
    • The Democrats go all in on vitriolic criticism.
    • Warren calls it “blood money,” etc.
    • Even Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat, will vote against the bill.

    The conventional wisdom is that the R’s cannot get it through the Senate  and that the D’s will escape all blame from voters.

    Comment: I don’t think the Democrats are home free on this.

    The Republicans will get a lot of the blame, to be sure, if they can’t pass a bill. They should. They have both Houses and the Presidency.

    But the Democrats’ entire strategy on everything in both Houses and in the streets is to resist and obstruct.

    It remains to be seen if voters will endorse that. I don’t think it appeals beyond the base in NY, CA, and university towns.

    Republicans will surely say, “It’s our bill versus Obamacare. The Democrats love Obamacare and won’t do anything but small changes. So now we’re all stuck with it.”

    That stance is reinforced by former Pres. Obama coming out so forcefully against the Republican bill.

    What happens when voters get the bad news from insurance companies in November about next year?  

    Ultimately, the electoral question comes down to this: Which do you hate more? Obamacare or the Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace it?

     Suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia blows himself up, but fails to reach his main target in Mecca: the Grand Mosque (Washington Post)

    The [Saudi Interior] ministry did not name the group involved in the attack. The ultraconservative Sunni kingdom battled an al-Qaida insurgency for years and more recently has faced attacks from a local branch of the Islamic State group.

    Neither group immediately claimed those arrested, though Islamic State sympathizers online have urged more attacks as an offensive in Iraq slowly squeezes the extremists out of Mosul and their de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria comes under daily bombing from a U.S.-led coalition. –Washington Post

    Comment: Remember, bringing down Saudi Arabia was the major goal of Al Qaeda all along. So far, not much progress.

    My guess is that the real political risk is related to Saudi efforts to liberalize the economy, which requires freer information and freer women.

     Loretta Lynch, Attorney General in Obama’s final years, is now being investigated by the Senate. Hacked emails from a Democratic campaign official said Lynch “would not to let the Clinton investigation go too far.” That doesn’t look good. Nor does Comey’s testimony that Lynch ordered him to falsely characterize the investigation in public. (USA Today story here)

    Another email, now public,

    indicated that Lynch had privately assured Clinton campaign staffer Amanda Renteria that the FBI’s investigation wouldn’t “go too far.” –USA Today

    The Congressional letter asking Lynch to provide documents was bipartisan, and Lynch has promised to cooperate.

    Comment: First, the Senate has to determine if these emails are real or fake. If they are real, Ms. Lynch may be be able to dance around them. For example, “I only meant I didn’t want it to go too far afield” or that she was simply guessing what the FBI would do. (Why would she be talking about such a secret matter to staffers for the person being investigated?) Or that the staffer misunderstood, etc.

    The fact that Democrats signed the letter to Lynch indicates the Senate committee, led by Grassley and Feinstein, is operating in a bipartisanship fashion, although it could also indicate that Lynch has reassured Democrats she can defend her position.

    Still, the documents now publicly available reek of political interference in a criminal investigation if they are real, not faked by the Russians. As this investigation moves forward, remember, the Democrats refused to allow the FBI to look into their computers after the Russian hack. They haven’t said why.

     When corruption stinks. Literally. The White Plains, NY, city council gave a $175k judgeship to someone who cannot work because she is too fat to climb the three steps to the bench (Daily Caller) Judge Eliz. Shollenberger is chair of the local Democratic Party and all council members are Democrats.

    It actually gets worse. Judge Shollenberger comes to the court house with what we will delicately call “gastrointestinal issues,” which leave the place looking and smelling terrible.

    Shollenberger further dismayed her colleagues by displaying “complete arrogance” following the embarrassing incidents.

    “She would just say, ‘There is a mess over there. I think someone should clean it up,’” a court source told the NY Post. –NY Post, quoted in the Daily Caller

    Comment: The over/under on how long it takes for Judge Shollenberger to play the victim here: 2 minutes. “I’m sick” “This is fat shaming.” Etc.

    Meanwhile, the public has to pay for a non-working judge and a hard-working janitorial crew.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 23

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

     Republican Senators introduce their health-care bill. In its current form, the bill is at least 3 votes short of the 50 votes needed. Moving right to capture them could lose centrist Republicans.

    On the current vote count, here’s the Washington Post story.

    And the criticism from outside groups is fierce. Here’s one report on criticism by healthcare groups (Bloomberg)

    Surprisingly, Obama doesn’t like it, either. He posted on FB. I planned to quote it but it runs longer than a Fidel Castro speech.

    The best summary of the differences between the House bill (as passed) and the Senate bill (as introduced) is here at the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (link)

    Comment: Negotiations ahead in the Senate. Uncertain if Pres. Trump will get involved.

     Russian “Old Believer” Priest tells men to grow beards to “protect themselves from homosexuality”  (Moscow Times)

    Comment: I asked an expert, a Mr. W. Whitman,  . . . .

     Quick Tip: If you have a huge weapons stash, don’t get caught shoplifting ammo

    Ramadan Abdullah was arrested for theft in upstate New York (Binghamton Homepage)

    Police recovered:

    -4 loaded handguns
    -8 assault weapons
    -64 high-capacity ammunition feeding devices
    -1 loaded shotgun
    -2 rifles
    -thousands of rounds of ammunition for rifles, pistols, and assault weapons, including 50 caliber armor piercing incendiary rounds, numerous firearm parts, and flak jackets.

    Cornwell says subsequent search warrants executed at other properties tied to the suspect resulted in the seizure of:

    -numerous rounds of 38 caliber ammunition
    -high-capacity ammunition feeding devices and ammunition
    -an additional loaded firearm –Binghamton Homepage

    Comment: Mr. Abdullah said that being arrested during his namesake holiday was especially ironic.

     Trump’s infrastructure proposal includes expansion of rural broadband (Engadget)

    Comment: This could be a valuable expenditure, if it were done right and not too expensive.

     Qatar’s neighbors issue a long list of demands to end crisis (Associated Press)

    The Saudis, Egyptians, and others issued a 13-point list

    insisting that their Persian Gulf neighbor shutter Al-Jazeera, cut back diplomatic ties to Iran and sever all ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

    In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the list in Arabic from one of the countries involved in the dispute. –Associated Press

    Comment: Getting the Turks out and keeping Iran out are the keys. They also want to shut Al Jazeera. 

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  • Democrats Latest Strategy on Repeal-and-Replace: Shut Down the Entire Senate

    To show they are grumpy about the Republicans’ negotiations to repeal-and-replace ObamaCare, the Democrats have a new idea.

    They plan to halt all business in the Senate, even the most routine measures.

    Those normally pass unanimously without objection.

    That is what CNN is reporting.

    Senate Democrats will move to bring the chamber to a halt Monday night to protest the Republicans’ closed-door process to gut Obamacare in the coming days, according to a senior Democratic aide.

    Democrats plan to object to routine requests to let the chamber operate — whether it’s scheduling votes or allowing committees to meet for extended hearings — in a move aimed at escalating the fight over health care. –CNN

    CNN reports the Democratic base is enthusiastic about the strategy.

    It is not clear if the Democrats plan to continue the strategy after Monday’s protest.

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    Comment: Rachel Maddow, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Steyer might like it, but ordinary people won’t.

    This is a temper tantrum wearing the thin guise of political strategy.

    The correct allegation is that the Republican Senators are doing this behind closed doors.

    The Republicans rightly respond that the Democrats have said they won’t agree to anything if it repeals and replaces Obamacare.

    So, Republicans figure, if we can’t get their votes, why tell them in advance what we are doing?

     

  • 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.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 10

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

     The aftermath of Comey remains “He said. He said.” One he is Comey, the other is Trump.

    Other than Trump’s foolhardy bravado in offering to testify under oath to Mueller, nothing really happened.

    The newspapers generally covered the testimony honestly. The outlier was the New York Times. Here’s my blog post on that:

    How Five Newspapers Headline Comey’s Testimony: Four are Fair, One is Not

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    Comment on Conspiracy Theories: The Comey testimony and its aftermath underscore and reinforce a larger shift in public discourse that is very troubling: the rise of conspiracy theories.

    America’s media in tandem with the Democratic party and progressives are now playing a constant drumbeat of conspiracy theories, mostly about secret collaboration between the Kremlin and Trump to throw the 2016 election.

    We haven’t seen anything like that since Joe McCarthy.

    Trump does not come to this with clean hands. His claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate were a major conspiracy theory for years.

     Britain’s Tories face a trainwreck. Their call for a snap election has produced a hung Parliament and likely a shaky coalition government

    The headline in The Independent: Theresa May tries to move on after humiliating result as critics begin to circle

    A chastened Theresa May is attempting to move on from her botched election gamble, under intense pressure from members of her own cabinet and Tory backbenchers to dramatically improve her game. . . .

    Ahead of what is promising to be a bruising meeting with Tory backbenchers next week, MPs publicly questioned Ms May’s position and her campaign, with one even branding it “madness”, while others demanded changes to her Brexit strategy and raised concerns about a deal with the Northern Irish DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] . –The Independent

    May met with the Queen and said she intends to form a government. But there is considerable question about her future.

    The Tories could toss her out before the next election, which is likely to come fairly soon.

    Meanwhile, here are the main effects of the British election. It

    • Requires Conservatives to partner with a small party (DUP) from Northern Ireland to form a government
    • Shows the failure of Theresa May’s campaign; she was a bad candidate who ran on her personality, not future policy
    • Rejects the Conservatives positioning themselves as mushy, big-state centrists, far away from Thatcher’s free-market policies.
    • Gives Labour its biggest gains since late 1940s, even though (or perhaps because) the party is headed by a very, very far leftist.
      • Labour’s huge gains under Jeremy Corbyn, an unabashed socialist who supports a number of terrorist regimes, mark a major political shift in the electorate.

     Spain’s Catalonia region (Barcelona and surrounding area) will hold a referendum on leaving Spain (NPR)

    The Spanish central government sees the vote as illegal, so this sets up a confrontation.

    The Washington Post story is here.

    “There is not going to be any illegal referendum that goes against the Constitution,” the government’s spokesman . . . said after a weekly cabinet meeting. “We are facing an increasingly radical strategy that has less and less support.”

    [But Catalonia’s regional president] Carles Puigdemont said the decision to call for the vote was reached after more than 18 months of efforts failed to establish a dialogue with Madrid.

    He also said the vote was nonnegotiable because Catalans backed his plan for secession by voting for his coalition of pro-independence parties at the end of 2015. –Washington Post

    Comment: The region has a long history and its own language, Catalan, that is related to Spanish but different.

     Repealing Obamacare puts the Senate’s centrist Republicans in a bind. An example from Ohio, in his USA Today story:

    Rob Portman’s dilemma: How to repeal Obamacare without undermining opioid fight

    The key problem: any cutbacks in Medicaid, which Ohio expanded as part of the ACA, would harm addicts’ ability to get care.

    Comment: Repealing and Replacing Obamacare depends on solving very hard problems like this. 

     Meanwhile, Politico reports that “Conservatives near revolt on Senate health care negotiations”

    Comment: Staunchest opponents appear to be Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT).

    Skepticism about the bill voiced by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) 

    Republicans have 52 votes. They would need 50 votes plus the Vice President to pass a bill and send it to a reconciliation committee with the House.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, May 27

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

     Trump’s back home and the Russian mess is still dogging him.

    He’s considering major changes at the White House to cope. Washington Post says the allegations “threaten to consume his Presidency”

    The White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates — including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser — and Russia.

    White House officials also are trying to find ways to revive Trump’s stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.

    That includes proposals for more travel and campaign-style rallies nationwide so that Trump can speak directly to his supporters, as well as changes in the pace and nature of news briefings, probably including a diminished role for embattled White House press secretary Sean Spicer. –Washington Post

    Comment: These allegations are why the investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller are so important–and why it needs to move quickly. If there really was collusion with the Russians, the public and Congress need to know. Same if there was no collusion since the allegations themselves are making it hard to govern.

     The most important comment in US politics this week:

    Mitch McConnell’s “I don’t know how we get to 50,” votes to pass a health-care reform bill

    He did express some optimism on tax reform. (Reuters via Business Insider)

    Politico reports: “McConnell Steps Into ObamaCare Firing Line”

    Comment: This process is going to be very painful as the insurance markets narrow and premiums go up. Those who pay them are going to be mad as hell. Those who might be harmed by reforms are going to be just as mad.

    Politically, the question is whether voters will hold Democrats responsible for making the mess or Republicans for failing to fix it.

    My hunch: it is much easier to be the party out of power, casting the blame for failure. Since the Republicans hold both Houses and the Presidency, they won’t have much luck pointing the finger at Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi.

     American Airlines passenger tried to bite flight attendant, then ran off the plane. Now in custody.  (Washington Post)

    Likely Sentence: To be dragged repeatedly up and down the aisle of a United flight while listening to an endless loop of instructions on how to buckle your seat belt.

    (Btw, is there anybody left who doesn’t grasp the vexing concept of buckling a seat belt? Still, I am delighted to hear the detailed explanation on every single flight. I’m sure the flight attendants love doing it, too. Also, except for Sully Sullenberger, is there any such thing as a “water landing”? Isn’t there another term for that?)

     Uber and Lyft beat the city of Austin, will return on their terms  (The Verge)

    Austin didn’t give in on the requirements that led the ride-sharing companies to pull out for a year. But the Texas legislature just passed a bill that says the state, not the city, is in charge of setting the requirements. The key state requirement is annual background checks on the drivers.

     Little Caesar’s delivered a pizza (allegedly) labeled “halal.” The recipient says it was pepperoni. So, naturally, he is suing . . . for $100 million  (USA Today)

    Comment: I can see the plaintiff’s point. Pepperoni is virtually impossible to detect on pizza.

    But is $100 million really enough?

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