• 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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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, July 7

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

     Trump’s speech in Poland: The most important foreign-policy statement of his presidency  (The White House text of the speech is here)

    It was actually quite eloquent, especially in its recitation of Poland’s uprising against the Nazis in August 1944 and the Soviet Army waiting across the river until the Nazis killed all of them. It offered a clear statement about the achievements of the West–achievements worth defending. And it promised strong US participation in NATO.

    It offered a sharp criticism of Putin’s expansive foreign policy and the risks it posed in Europe and the Middle East

    Comment: The Poles welcomed the speech, understandably so.

     McConnell indicates he may not have the votes for a Republican healthcare bill  (The Hill)

    “If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to private health insurance markets must occur,” McConnell said at a Rotary Club meeting in Kentucky on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

    Comment: In other words, I’ll work with the Democrats to do something. In that case, the Republicans might defect. 

    This is turning into one fine mess.

     Leftists, Anarchists clash with German police ahead of G20 summit in Hamburg (Deutsche Welle)

    DW calls them “anti-capitalist protests”

     Muslim groups in Indonesia, Malaysia call for boycott of Starbucks because of its support for gay rights  (Chicago Tribune)

    The groups were apparently reacting to comments made several years ago by former CEO Howard Schultz in support of gay rights that drew renewed attention amid an increasingly anti-LGBT climate in both of the predominantly Muslim countries. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: Gee, I hope this isn’t a setback for “intersectionality” among US progressives.

     CNN’s troubles show up in the ratings. It is now #13. Fox (#1), MSNBC (#2) both doing well. (Scribd)

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, June 30

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

     Trump’s twitter fury, aimed at MSNBC’s Morning Joe and its hosts, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

    The Washington Post headline says, quite accurately: ” Trump and ‘Morning Joe’: How a long and ugly feud just got even uglier

    Comments: 

    1. Yes, Scarborough and Brzezinski have said outrageous, hyperbolic, defamatory things about Donald Trump
      • Many other media outlets have done the same
      • Far more show consistent partisan bias, damaging their reputations, hurting the President, and eroding trust in media
    2. No, that is absolutely no excuse for the President of the United States to respond with noxious, personal attacks
      • Trump’s response would be objectionable, but not so different from many Twitter spats, if he were merely a private citizen
      • But he is not a private citizen and should not be held to those standards. As President, he is not only a political figure, he is the head of state. One requirement of that office is to maintain dignity and decorum consistent with the office.

    Politically, this is self-inflicted damage to Trump. Few approve it except for his most avid supporters. And it takes him off-message, at a time when Americans want results on healthcare and taxes.

    But the worse damage is to our public life and discourse, which had already sunk so low, and to trust in our institutions, which are crucial to our democracy.

     Far Different from the first time: “Trump travel ban takes effect to minimal disruption (Fox News)

    The revised order, which the US Supreme Court approved in part (with some aspects reserved for future decisions), covers 6 countries and does not block foreign individuals with strong personal ties to the US.

    A scaled-down version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban took effect at 8 p.m. ET Thursday, with none of the dramatic scenes of protest and chaos that greeted the original version of Trump’s executive order five months ago.

    The Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice went ahead with the implementation after the Supreme Court partially restored the order earlier this week. –Fox News

    Comment on Media bias:

    The Fox report was straightforward. Others, not so much.

    It was almost impossible to find a news report that actually gave the news instead of an editorial. The news is that the revised ban went into effect, worked smoothly (so far), and met with only modest demonstrations at airports, far different from the bureaucratic mess and large demonstrations that surrounded the initial order.

    Kudos to the BBC for this neutral headline: “Trump travel ban comes into effect for six countries.”

    Bronx cheer for many others. CNN headline makes no mention of the smooth rollout and modest demonstrations. It does mention further court challenges, even though the main one will come in the autumn at SCOTUS. The challenges are from Democratic state AGs, such as Hawaii, and they mainly ask for clarification. A nothingburger.

    Most of the headlines looked like this. Others emphasized the demonstrations.

     

    Major legal victory: Jury decides US can seize a major Manhattan skyscraper, owned by Iran (New York Times)

    The jury . . . found that the Alavi Foundation, which owns 60 percent of the 36-floor skyscraper at 650 Fifth Avenue, violated United States sanctions against Iran and engaged in money laundering through its partnership with Assa Corporation, a shell company for an Iranian state-controlled bank that had owned the remaining 40 percent. . . .

    The [US] government has agreed to distribute proceeds from the building’s sale, which could bring as much as $1 billion, to the families of victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks, including the Sept. 11 attacks. –New York Times

    Comment: The same foundation has made donations to Columbia University (link here). The stench runs deep.

    ◆  Washington football team will remain the Redskins. Native American groups and DOJ drop lawsuit after Supreme Court ruling.  (Washington Post)

     Major lawsuit again San Francisco State University over its systematic anti-Semitism, including violent suppression of Jewish speakers, shouted curses, calls for an “intifada,” etc. The suit alleges the university administration was indifferent to repeated complains and actively protected the disrupters.  (Newsweek)

    The lawsuit has been filed by a pro bono organization, the Lawfare Project. The suit

    calls SFSU “among the worst of the worst offenders and is largely recognized as being among the most anti-Semitic campuses in the country.”

    The heckling of Barkat is one of several incidents that the suit argues contributed to an atmosphere hostile to Jewish students, one that was created with the alleged complicity of the school’s administrations. –Newsweek, reporting on Lawfare Project’s suit against SFSU

    Comment: Long overdue. The SFSU administration actually blamed the Israelis for one disruption against them, saying the only reason the mayor of Jerusalem (Nir Barkat) came to speak at SFSU was that he knew the Palestinians and the leftist allies at SFSU would riot to prevent it–and that’s just what Barkat wanted.

    So, this is the logic: the mayor of a large city comes to speak at your university; your students riot and prevent him; you blame the mayor; and then, after promising citizens the rioters would be punished, you do nothing at all.

    Those administrators should be held fully and personally accountable. Their next jobs should be flipping burgers until they are replaced by robots.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 26

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

     After indications that Syria’s Assad might use chemical weapons again, Trump warns he will pay “a heavy price” for “mass murder” (New York Times)

    Comment: As with most deterrent threats, it is hard to know whether it will work.

    What we do know is that it is could work because it is credible.

    That is, the target (Syria, in this case) has good reasons to believe we will do what we threaten if he acts.

    After Pres. Obama’s failed “red line” and other missteps, our threats were heavily discounted.

    It is worth noting, then, that Trump has managed to reestablish America’s deterrent threat quickly after 8 years of neglect and decline.

     CNN has made several major errors in reporting the Trump-Russia investigation, all adverse to the Administration.

    After the retractions, three CNN journalists are going to spend more time with their families. Story here (Washington Post)

    Comment: My sense is that CNN’s main viewership is airport passengers delayed in boarding.

    I hope the transportation industry survives this setback.

     Amazing story, if further proof emerges. Circa reports that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn began after he intervened to help a (purported) victim of FBI sexual discrimination.  Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter have done first-rate reporting on scandals, so their coverage should be taken seriously. The key here is that the person accused of discrimination is very high-ranking. Indeed, he was acting head of the agency after Comey stepped down.

    The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.

    Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.

    There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.

    McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.

    Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.

    Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus. 

    The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.

    The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.

    This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.

     California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label.  They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)

     That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?

    Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.

    Story here.

    Comment: Check the man for rabies.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Tom Elia
    for the Circa story on the FBI

    ◆ Sam Stubbs for the CNN story.

    Sam reported it correctly, unlike CNN

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 5

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

     UPDATE ON London Terror (from the BBC). Police

    • Know the attackers’ identities,
    • Have detained a “number of people” after searches in East London, on top of 12 people arrested Sunday in Barking
    • Report 21 people are still in critical condition.

    With three attacks in three months, terrorism against soft targets is beginning to feel, to some people, like the new normal.

    The brutal reality is that this kind of threat is absolutely typical of what jihadists sought to achieve in all their attacks across Europe.

    Since 2013 security services in the UK have foiled 18 plots. A large proportion of those have involved suspects who set out to commit acts of violence similar to the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.

    Plans to use bombs, such as at Manchester Arena, are rarer because plotters need to have the technical skills for such an appalling attack – but attacking people with cars and knives is far easier and has long been encouraged by so-called Islamic State and other jihadists. –BBC

    Comment: The number of potential jihadis in England is beyond the authorities’ ability to track. The number of soft targets is beyond their ability to protect.

    That means hard political choices are coming, not just in England but across Europe to staunch this threat.

    The public simply will not accept this as the “new normal.”

     Dividends from Trump-Saudi talks to contain terror

    The Kingdom, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar for its constant support of terrorism. CNN reports Bahrain’s tough statement:

    Based on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue to destabilize the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to interfere in its affairs, to continue the escalation and incitement of the media, and supporting armed terrorist activities, and financing groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and the principles of international law without regard to values, law, morals, consideration of the principles of good neighborliness, or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations, and the denial of all previous commitments. –CNN

    Since the US has a major base in Qatar, there are direct implications for the US. As CBS headlines it: Major U.S. military ops based in Gulf nations in throes of deep diplomatic rift

    Comments:

    • The cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is noteworthy; they have been grumpy with each other recently.
    • CNN’s story fails to mention Trump or the major meeting during his visit that launched this initiative.

     Since we are talking about CNN’s bias: They were just caught staging a “news event” to fit their narrative.

    They even had the white British police officers leave the frame; they were replaced with Asian officers.

    Comment: If CNN fakes the news, how will airport passengers know what is happening?

     One of those lovely stories about private generosity: 70 years ago, a man (now aged 98) bought $1,000 worth of Walgreens stock. Now, it’s worth $2 million, and, since he doesn’t have a family, he’s giving all of it to his favorite charity: the Illinois Audubon Society. (Fox 32 story here)

     Top Dem on Senate Intel Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), says “no smoking gun” on Trump-Russia. He quickly adds “at this point”  (The Hill)

    He did say that Trump telling Comey to “let it go” would be “very concerning,” if Comey confirmed it.

    Comment: If there is hard evidence the Trump campaign really did cheat to throw the election, let’s see it. If there is none, let’s get back to governing the country. 

     New chancellor at U. of Missouri says diversity on campus must include “diversity of thought” (Heat Street)

    Comment: The university’s enrollment plummeted, along with its finances, after 2015 demonstrations by Black Lives Matter, threats against student reporters (“get some muscle over here”), and a spineless administration that couldn’t roll over fast enough. Now, they have a new leader on campus with a different idea.

    The question is whether he can implement it and withstand the pushback.

     

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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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