• ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, November 3

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

    Bowe Bergdahl, Army deserter held by Taliban, avoids prison sentence (Washington Post)

    Comment: This outcome is shocking. US soldiers died looking for this creep. Others were injured. Lots of resources devoted to finding a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post and planned for weeks to do so.

    Pres. Trump immediately weighed in, via Twitter. My guess is that Trump’s position will be very popular on this issue. He’s implicitly daring the Democrats to come out on the other side, as many of them did (to their cost) on the NFL kneeling.

    More good economic news: Unemployment down to 4.1%, the lowest rate since 2000.

    Less good: Wage growth slow (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Best news of all: Strong Productivity Growth. (CNBC)

    Comments: Productivity growth is crucial. It is the underlying source of real wage growth.

    The biggest problem for the economy now is the misfit between the skilled jobs available and the unskilled workers who are unemployed.

    Tax Bill, next phase: We will find new details (none good, otherwise they wouldn’t be hidden), and gored oxen will come out to save themselves

    Example of hidden details:

    House Republicans claim the tax plan they introduced Thursday keeps the top individual rate unchanged at 39.6 percent—the level at which it’s been capped for much of the past quarter-century. But a little-noticed provision effectively creates a new band in which income is taxed at over 45 percent.

    Thanks to a quirky proposed surcharge, Americans who earn more than $1 million in taxable income would trigger an extra 6 percent tax on the next $200,000 they earn—a complicated change that effectively creates a new, unannounced tax bracket of 45.6 percent. –Politico

    Example of gored oxen:  Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.

    In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans. –Chronicle of Higher Education

    Comment: There is also tremendous pushback on the limitations on deducting state and local taxes, led by Republicans in high-tax states.

    These issues will be fought out over the next month, first in House committee, then on the floor in both chambers, then in reconciliation.

     Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, who has fled the country (BBC)

    ◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries

    All three major TV news networks completely skip the story (Fox News)

    NYT: nothing

    Comment: It’s not surprising that most Democratic politicians are silent. But the story is a significant one, and it’s omission by mainstream outlets is bias, pure and simple.

     Pressure builds on AG Jeff Sessions, accused of false or misleading statements to Congress. The issue: what he knew Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia 

    The Atlantic magazine calls it: “Jeff Sessions’ Selective Memory

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Robert Pahre for the Chronicle of Higher Education story

     

  • Media Bias: Find the Missing Words in the New York Times Report on NY Terror

    Here is the New York Times front page on the web, November 1, noon

    See if you can find the missing words

    That’s right: they completely omit ISIS, Jihad, “Islamic Extremism.” 

    They simply use the word “terror,” as they do with the shootings in Las Vegas.

    They omit the political/religious motivation.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, September 8

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

    ◆ We are enduring the hardest test of our lifetime for national-disaster response efforts.

    Huge Hurricanes Back-to-Back and a Third Looming

    The number of elderly in South Florida only compounds the potential tragedy.

    Comment: So far, I have been impressed by 

    • The high quality of weather forecasts, often 4-5 days out
    • The learning by federal, state, and local authorities after Katrina
    • The much-greater competence of authorities in Texas than in Louisiana, in Houston than in NOLA, and in FEMA today than under Bush. (Granted, being more competent than NOLA officials is a very low bar.)
    • The exceptional contributions by volunteers in Texas. Here’s hoping for the same in Florida.
    • The absence of looting and other predation after Harvey. (Again, a welcome improvement over Katrina.)

    Here’s hoping the worst weather forecasts don’t come true for Florida, the response is as effective as in Texas, and that the long-term recovery effort lets people rebuild their lives.

    The hack of Equifax computers records is the most massive to date

    It exposes sensitive personal data on 44% of the US population.

    To compound the injury, several executives seem to have sold the company’s stock before the hack was publicly disclosed.

    ZipDialog has a separate post on the mess (link here)

     Rules for dealing with  alleged sexual assault on campus to be rewritten by Department of Education 

    The New York Times gets the basic story right (link here):

    Saying that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Thursday that her administration would rewrite the rules in an effort to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused.

    Ms. DeVos did not say what changes she had in mind. But in a strongly worded speech, she made clear she believed that in an effort to protect victims, the previous administration had gone too far and forced colleges to adopt procedures that sometimes deprived accused students of their rights. –New York Times

    Comment: The problem is their headline: “Betsy DeVos Says She Will Rewrite Rules on Campus Sex Assault”

    She plans to rewrite the rules on allegations of campus sex assault.

    The key word is “allegation.” That word is missing from the NYT headline.

    The victims deserve thorough, fair investigations, with appropriately harsh penalties for sexual harassment and coercion when those have been proven. At the same time, the accused deserve through, fair investigations and a chance to present their side. The whole point of due process is to sort through the allegations.

    ◆ FIRE, the leading supporter of free speech on campus, uses this headline:

    Education Department says it will finally confront its role in campus due process crisis (FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

    ◆ Competition in Artificial Intelligence: IBM invests $240 million in AI Research Lab with MIT (Forbes)

    Forbes reports IBM is struggling in the area, competing against Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

    The lab will focus on areas like training AI algorithms that don’t require extensive supervision and exhaustive manual labeling of data. Right now, many deep learning systems require people to go through and label each piece of data — like, say, that’s a car in the image.

    In hardware, the lab hopes to move beyond what’s popular in AI today — namely, graphics processors usually made by Nvidia — and start experimenting with processors that don’t rely on traditional chip designs, such as quantum computing, an area IBM has already been pursuing. –Forbes

    Comment: This is another example of how US leadership in basic research in the physical and biological sciences pays off for the larger US economy. A glance at Kendall Square (next to MIT) and Silicon Valley’s close connection to Stanford reinforce this critical point.

    While the Humanities sink into political advocacy, second-rate ideology, and irrelevance to most serious students, the sciences and empirical social sciences continue to advance.

    The Debbie Wasserman Schultz scandal continues to unfold (Daily Caller)

    The scandal centers on IT professional, Imran Awan, who (with family members) handled computers and software for lots of Democratic House members, led by DWS.

    Awan was arrested trying to flee to his native Pakistan with significant cash. Federal prosecutors have brought some charges against him and expect to bring more.

    Awan’s wife has already fled to Pakistan.

    Because the family handled sensitive computer work for many Congressmen, they had access to all their computer files.

    Most D’s fired them after the initial investigations turned up serious problems. DWS did not and actually pushed hard against investigators. We still don’t know why.

    It is unclear whether sensitive information was stolen and perhaps sent to overseas entities, used for blackmail, etc.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, August 25

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

    Hurricane Harvey to hit near Galveston, Houston as Category 2.

    Winds currently 100 mph. Huge flooding expected on coast and inland. 

    New Orleans, which has struggled with water pumping, is anxious, even though it is hundreds of miles from the storm center (New Orleans Advocate)

    Russian nuclear bombers fly near North Korea in rare show of force, aimed at US (Reuters)

     How low has Sears fallen? Some vendors have quit, others won’t restock the shelves without insurance (Reuters)

    NYT may be in real trouble over Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit (Wall Street Journal)

    The newspaper is seeking to have her lawsuit dismissed. But Mrs. Palin’s legal team says that Times lawyers are demanding a legal standard that would effectively make it impossible for any public official to win a libel case….

    To win her case Mrs. Palin will need to prove “actual malice” on the part of Times staff, meaning they knew the story to be false or they published with reckless disregard for the truth. This is a very high legal bar, as it should be.

    The NYT editor who testified wanted to set the bar much, much higher. He did not say “we were misinformed and sometimes make mistakes in the rush to deadline.”

    Nope. The essence of his testimony is that he “did not intend to write what his editorial clearly states” (in the words of the WSJ’s James Freeman).

    Comment: You don’t have to like Sarah Palin to think that the NYT’s effort to directly link her to the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords by a  crazy shooter was a disgusting smear job.

    The Times should be held to account.

    Trump and his administration are letting Congress write the details of tax reform (Politico)

    The so-called Big Six tax reform negotiators — a group that includes [Treasury Secretary Stephen] Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch — will essentially turn over what they have done to the [Congressional] committees and let them fill in the particulars. –Politico

     And finally, to summarize the most PC story of the day

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • New York Times Art Critic Attacks Israel-Sponsored Exhibit on Eichmann Trial

    The problems: apparently it is just too clear morally, too focused on Eichmann’s capture

    Such obvious failings. It’s hard to believe the Israelis missed these subtle points.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Ira Stoll, writing for Algemeiner, excoriates the moral vacuousness of the New York Times (link here to Stoll article);

    Just when you may have thought that the New York Times couldn’t possibly sink any lower when it comes to Israel or Jewish issues, along comes one Jason Farago, an art critic for the newspaper, who manages to review an exhibit about the murderous Nazi Adolf Eichmann and fault it for being, of all things, insufficiently sympathetic to Eichmann.

    Farago complains: “The trial was transformative, but whether it was entirely just is not a question raised by this exhibition, which prefers the relics of James Bond-like spycraft to moral and legal dilemmas.”

    Perhaps the reason the exhibit doesn’t dwell on these so-called “moral and legal dilemmas” is because they weren’t truly dilemmas at all. –Ira Stoll, in Algemeiner

    The Times article is here. The key quote:

    The show goes longer on spy thrills than on moral and legal perplexities, though that may have been inevitable given its co-organizer: none other than the Mossad, the intelligence service that is Israel’s equivalent of the C.I.A. –Jason Farago, in the New York Times

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Robert Lieber comments on “the NYT’s intellectual bankruptcy”:

    The Holocaust and the deliberate, ruthlessly organized and meticulous extermination of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II constitutes a uniquely appalling crime in the history of the modern world.

    One of its foremost architects, Adolph Eichmann was captured, tried and executed by Israel in an event that held the attention of the world.

    Now, more than a half-century later, the New York Times, ever ready to break new frontiers in its moral transgressiveness reviews an Israeli-government-sponsored exhibit in New York that documents the case.

    Leave it to the NYT to focus not on the unique evil, the indifference, fecklessness or complicity of so much of the world while the helpless Jews of Europe were being oppressed and slaughtered, but instead on the alleged absence of moral ambiguity in the exhibition.

    The NYT was once a great newspaper and the journal of record. This has long-since ceased to be the case in a newspaper where the editorializing begins on the front page.

    This current story is but the latest illustration of the New York Times‘ intellectual bankruptcy.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • 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

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

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

    I have written a separate post summarizing Comey’s testimony: what he said, what he didn’t, what he implied, and what I think is significant about it.

    Comey’s testimony lacerated the president and laid the basis for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate obstruction of justice. That and self-justification were his main goals, and he succeeded.

    But Comey’s testimony was careful.

    Here are some fair representations of it.

    The best, I think, is the Wall Street Journal’s because it

    • Puts Comey’s accusation against Trump in the headline
    • Gives it the most prominent place on the front page without stretching it to World War III headline size
    • Makes clear that Comey is saying how he “felt.” The WSJ is not taking a hard-news stance that he is correct or incorrect in that interpretation

    The Chicago Tribune is fair, too. It gives the story more prominence (a perfectly reasonable decision) and puts the hard news in the subheader.

    The headline merely says what we all know: he testified.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Here are two more, equally fair and tough.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Now, the New York Times.

    The Times’ headline represents everything that is wrong with mainstream media.

    It is an editorial without saying so.

    Why? Because Comey did not testify that Trump tried to “sink” the inquiry.  He was more careful, more lawyers, more “touchy-feely” about what he “felt” (which, of course, is entirely subjective and so cannot be refuted).

    Comey did not say Trump tried to stop the inquiry.

    He didn’t say Trump ordered him to do anything.

    He didn’t report anything like obstruction of justice at the time, as he would have been required to do.

    What he testified was that he felt pressured.

    Comey may be exactly right–or not. We can make our own judgments, but we don’t know for sure.

    His testimony was a lawyerly self-defense, designed to help himself and get revenge on Trump.

    But he did not testify, under oath, that Trump “tried to sink” the investigation. That’s the NYT’s editorial spin.

    Their interpretation may be exactly right, but it belongs on the editorial pages.

    All the other stories above the fold are designed–and headlined–to reinforce the NYT’s editorial viewpoint.

    Their headline should be hard news, and it should be accurate.

    That would be a refreshing change.