• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 3

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

    Trump proposes new immigration bill; uses point-based system to favor those with high skills; will cut total legal immigration in half (ABC News)

    The bill aims to prioritize workers’ skills over family ties, and amounts to the “most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” Trump said. The goal of the bill would be to knock down the number of legal immigrants admitted into the U.S. each year from about 1 million to 500,000 by 2027.

    The RAISE bill would cut out the four-tiered family immigration category for green cards, paving way for a new merit-based system that prioritizes high-skilled workers who have a high level of English and “entrepreneurial initiative.” –ABC News

    Comment: The two central elements of the bill are inherently separable. Shifting to a merit-based system does not entail raising or lowering the number of people legally admitted. If lower-skilled workers are still needed for some jobs, then an amendment could admit them on a temporary basis–but only if there was some tough measures to ensure they left after that period. Right now, there aren’t.

    Bipartisan support? Not a chance. The Democrats are already lining up to say how racist it is. It isn’t.

    What’s interesting is that the cutbacks will clear bolster employment opportunities and wages for lower-income Americans–precisely the people Democrats claim they want to help. Unfortunately for Democrats, it cuts into Hispanic immigration, or, to put it differently, into the Identity Politics that is now the true heart of the party. Forced to choose between Identity Politics and Lower-income workers (including many blacks and Hispanics), the Democrats are going with Identity.

    Interesting question: will African-American Democrats go along? My bet is that they will, but that they will try to keep a low profile to avoid attention from their voters (who will be harmed). Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders will say, “If blacks and Hispanic members split on this, we’ll lose our leverage.”

    Actually, they don’t have any leverage. The real leverage will come from the US Chamber of Commerce, and it will be on Republicans, some of whom will cave.

    ⇒ Followup: What Did the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) leaders say today? Crickets

    I checked the Twitter feeds for these officers of the CBC:

    None tweeting anything about the immigration proposal. Most of the other members, even the most voluble, such as Maxine Waters, maintained twitter silence on immigration.

    Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was the only prominent CBC member I found who weighed in. Her tweet lays out the likely response of African-American Democrats: We hate Trump, so we hate his immigration bill.

     Venice “Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’” (New York Times)

    Comment:

    • It’s true, but what’s new? Mainly increasing numbers of “day trippers” and stops by large cruise boats.
    • Venice has earned its living from tourists like these for about 400 years. Nothing new here. Nobody’s rowing ships to the Ottoman Empire anymore.
    • The solution is easy: charge day trippers to come during peak months. You see, NYT, it would work sort of like you charging more for the Sunday paper. . .
    • The more difficult problem is rising sea levels, which now flood Venetian streets and squares with depressing regularity.

     Without exactly apologizing for a misleading story, the NYT now says that the DOJ is focusing on discrimination against Asian-Americans by affirmative action programs (New York Times)

    The NYT also reports on the Asian-American lawsuit against Harvard. Harvard is not alone; there are similar suits pending against Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Penn.

    Comment: It is blindingly obvious, at least to me, that these universities discriminate against Asian-Americans. Just look at their percentages (15-25%), compared to about 50% at Berkeley, which is legally prohibited from such discrimination–and would have a hard time doing it politically in California. Granted, California has more Asian-Americans, but the proportions at the Ivies are out of whack.

    My guess is that the admissions departments say what they did about Jews 60 years ago: “We just have too many of these students who score 800 in math, 700 in verbal, and play the violin. They just aren’t ‘well-rounded.’ ” No matter that these students’ parents, like Jewish parents of an earlier generation, had modest incomes, encouraged their bright kids to study hard, and then watched as Harvard and Princeton smacked them down for far less-qualified students.

    The only argument in Harvard’s favor is one they would never use: we are a private university and, until the government nationalizes us, we can set our own damned admissions standards, even if you think they are unfair.

    The government’s response, “Hey, buddy, nice genetic research program you got there. Hate to see all the money taken away from it.” That, of course, is how the government enforces its Title IX rules on athletic programs.

     NAACP issues travel advisory, warning blacks it is dangerous for them to travel to Missouri  (The Root)

    State NAACP leaders told the [Kansas City] Star that the decision to issue the advisory was made after recent legislation passed in the state which makes it harder to win discrimination suits, the longtime and continued racial disparities in traffic enforcement, and a number of incidents that exemplify harm coming to both minority residents and minority visitors to the state. –The Root

     White House finally admits those calls to Trump from the Boy Scouts and President of Mexico didn’t actually happen (New York Times)

    Comment: If only we had a cliché to describe that thing when somebody says something he knows is not true, and then does it over and over.

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  • ZipDialog Explainer: Key charts showing America’s Drug Epidemic and the Violent Gangs who Profit

    Today’s ZipDialog Roundup included a story about violence by the notorious MS-13 gang, originally from El Salvador, now entrenched across the US. Engaged in a wide range of crimes, it is still mainly a drug cartel.

    Today’s story was about several bodies, tortured and mutilated, found on Long Island. Police attribute to crimes to the MS-13 drug gang.

    A friend wrote that she knew judges in the area and that are reporting large numbers of rapes and other violent crimes by the El Salvadorans.

    My Response

    Comment: These drug-selling gangs are a scourge. It is stunning that, for so long, it was considered bad form to even talk about them because they were “immigrants.”

    That’s when PC becomes truly dangerous: it blocks a serious discussion of the problems. The problems don’t disappear; it just means the most extreme voices speak about them and, sadly, find a hearing.

    We need good people to come here from all over the world, not cartels selling drugs. And we need to be able to talk about the issues honestly, without slipping into racist generalizations or, conversely, being falsely accused of them.

    The Crucial Data

    Here is some vital data, in a few charts based on official sources (the Drug Enforcement Administration, Centers for Disease Control, and so on). To see a more complete report, go to the 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment (here) It is painful reading, but it is essential for an informed debate on these issues, which range from drug treatment to sanctuary cities.

    The increasing use has led to increasing deaths, not only because “regular” heroin is deadly but because it is increasingly dosed with lethal opioids, particularly fentanyl.

    While violent deaths from other sources are steady or declining, those from drug poisoning are rising.

    The “demand side” is obviously an internal US problem.

    The “supply side” are gangs who bring the drugs in, mainly from Mexico.

    It’s not just heroin coming across the southern border. It’s also cocaine, mostly from Columbia.

    The fentanyls come from legitimate drug manufacturers, who products are channeled into illegal uses, and, increasingly, from China. Some is smuggled directly into the US. Some comes across the US border after being shipped through Mexico or Canada.

    There are a number of competing Latin American gangs who sell these drugs, as the data from Texas clearly show.

    But no one should think these gangs are limited to border regions. They have spread out across the United States. Rooting them out is, quite rightly, a high-priority issue.

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    Thank you to Marcia Sukenik Weiss, whose thoughtful comments prompted this outline of the epidemic.

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 30

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     State Department official arrested; accused of economic spying for China  (Los Angeles Times)

    A longtime State Department employee [Candace Claiborne] was arrested Wednesday and charged with repeatedly lying about her contacts with Chinese businessmen who had plied her with thousands of dollars in cash and gifts to glean inside information about U.S. economic policy, U.S. officials said. . . .

    The case offers a window into Beijing’s efforts to gain an advantage in its economic jockeying with the United States, and how business owners in China often double as agents for state intelligence. –Los Angeles Times

     FBI director Comey wanted to publicly expose Russian spying before the election; Obama White House blocked him  (Newsweek)

    Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. . . .

    [The op-ed] would have included much of the same information as the bombshell declassified intelligence report released January 6, which said Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to influence the presidential election, the source said.–Newsweek

     Federal Reserve says the US economy is finally back to normal  (CNN Money). Unemployment is officially under 5% and adding 200k jobs monthly, which the Fed considers full employment for its purposes. This data is why the Fed is gradually raising interest rates, hoping to keep the economy from overheating.

     Attorney General for Mexican state of Nayarit arrested in San Diego on drug trafficking charges  (San Diego Union-Tribune)

    Comment: You hate to see their courts and law enforcement system besmirched.

     Dead: The misanthrope who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in the late 1960s. It featured recipes for bombs, gun silencers, and all sorts of weapons. It sold over 2 million copies and 

    is believed to have been used as a source in heinous acts of violence since its publication in 1971, most notably the killings of 12 students and one teacher in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. –New York Times

    Comment: Oddly, given his contributions to this world, he died of natural causes.  I have deliberately omitted his name.

     Headline: “This Chicago man saved $1 million by the time he was 30. Here’s how he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

    Let me explain how he did it:

    1. He made pretty good money, though not fantastic amounts
    2. He didn’t spend very much.

    Honestly, that’s what the article says. And, frankly, it is good advice if you want to accumulate resources and can restrain your consumption.

    Try to make good money and don’t splurge. If your investments get good returns, that helps, too.

    Comment: Works every time.

    But I would add: as you accumulate, give some to worthy charities. Others less fortunate need your help.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, February 23

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Mexico slams US immigration plans as US Sec. of State and Director of Homeland Security arrive in Mexico City  (CNN)

    Comment: This visit by Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly is important and so is the rollout of new immigration policies if our country is to avoid a train wreck.

    Americans are rightly concerned about illegal immigration and especially about recidivist felons and criminal gangs. But they are generally favorable to children who were brought here illegally by their parents. They want policies that focus on one and not the other.

    Trump’s initial actions, as opposed to his rhetoric, look to focus on gaining control of the border, removing felons, and ending “catch and release,” all policies that have wide public support.

    The danger is that hostile, high-octane rhetoric will produce predictable backlash in Mexico, increase the popularity of anti-American, Hugo-Chavez style politicians, and decrease cooperation within immigrant communities in the US. That is definitely not in America’s interest.

     Iowa legislator wants state universities to ask prospective faculty how they would vote. (Washington Post)

    Comment: How about “I wouldn’t vote for any moron who would propose such legislation.”  Political bias in the classroom is an issue. This is not a way to solve it.

    In an interview with NBC affiliate WHO, another Democrat, state Sen. Herman Quirmbach, called the bill “one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in 15 years here.” –Washington Post

    Senator Herman Quirmbach told the NBC station that he had just seen his name on TV and would change it quickly to something less ridiculous.

     The Washington Post posts a new motto online

    “Democracy Dies in Darkness” True enough, but really depressing. How about “Democracy Thrives in the Light”

    The paper denies the motto was inspired by Trump. (Fox)

    Comment: Yeah, sure. What’s the chance they would ever have run that motto while they were investigating  President Obama.

    Actually, what’s the chance they would have seriously investigated scandals in the Obama administration? This is the sort of hooey that has generated such public distrust of the media–and that’s a terrible thing for democracy. 

     Judge blocks California law that–yes, really–says you can’t publish actors’ age if they say “no”  (Politico)

    Comment: I wrote earlier about this unbelievably stupid, unconstitutional law: “California Dreamin’ . . . about abolishing the First Amendment”

     Disturbing news: “Study sees US Life Expectancy Falling Further Behind Other Countries” (CBS News)

    Life expectancy in the United States is already much lower than most other high-income countries and is expected to fall even further behind by 2030, new research published today predicts.

    According to the most recent government figures, life expectancy at birth in the United States is 76.3 years for men and 81.2 years for women.

    Using a number of forecasting models, researchers from the U.K. predict life expectancy in the U.S. will improve to 83.3 years for women and 79.5 years for men by the year 2030.

    But despite these modest gains, the United States is still lagging behind other developed countries.

    “The USA has the highest child and maternal mortality, homicide rate, and body-mass index of any high-income country, and was the first of high-income countries to experience a halt or possibly reversal of increase in height in adulthood, which is associated with higher longevity,” the authors write. –CBS News

    The scholarly study is here in The Lancet.

    “North Korea demands ‘sinister’ Malaysia stop investigating Kim Jong-nam death”  (The Guardian)

    North Korea has lashed out at Malaysia over the death of Kim Jong-nam, accusing it of having a “sinister purpose” and collaborating with South Korea, which has said Pyongyang agents assassinated Kim Jong-un’s half-brother. –The Guardian

    Comment: Taking such enormous risks to kill a family member (in a culture that reveres family ties) and a person under Chinese protection (when that is your country’s only international supporter) indicates how unstable the North Korean regime must be.

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Sunday, January 29

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump reorganizes membership on his National Security Council, removing Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, adding political adviser Steve Bannon (Wall Street Journal)

    Comment: THIS IS NUTS. Any serious national security decisions require direct input from the leaders of the military and intelligence communities. Besides their judgment, the president needs their efforts to implement decisions taken by the NSC and to coordinate their actions with other agencies. Removing them from the “NSC principals committee” is truly alarming.

    So is the inclusion of Bannon. Although the president needs political advice before making national security decisions, his decision to include his top political adviser on the NSC itself is a major error and another troubling sign for how foreign policy will be made.

    Where do Rex Tillerson (State) and James Mattis (Defense) stand on this? What does Dan Coats, the incoming DNI, think about this marginalization before he takes office?

    They have to wonder whether Trump, Bannon, and NSC Adviser Michael Flynn plan to run foreign policy out of the White House, with Flynn trying to dominate the Cabinet secretaries. (Charles Lipson commentary)   

     California, unhappy with Trump and happy with Sanctuary Cities, is looking for ways to block payments to Washington  (CBS San Francisco)

    The state of California is studying ways to suspend financial transfers to Washington after the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities, KPIX 5 has learned. –CBS San Francisco

    Here’s a Quick Tip to Sacramento: Jerry Brown might want to check with George Wallace, Ross Barnett, and Lester Maddox and see how well this strategy works.

     Two Big Stories on Immigration

    ⇒ Congress to consider supplemental appropriation to build wall with Mexico (Fox News)

    ⇒ Federal Judge issues “emergency stay,” blocking Trump order on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries  (Washington Post)

    The Post also emphasizes global outrage at the Trump order.

    Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

    Minutes after the judge’s ruling in New York, another came in Alexandria when U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a temporary restraining order to block for seven days the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport. –Washington Post

    ⇒ Meanwhile, spontaneous protests break out at airports opposing Trump’s ban. (AP)

     Professor of health management says Obamacare is fiscally unsustainable but asks if replacement will help people with preexisting conditions  (Forbes)

    Prof. Scott Harrington (U. Penn’s Wharton School, chair for health care management) notes Obamacare is in deep trouble:

    The subsidies and mandate have yet to produce balanced and stable risk pools in many states. Individual market enrollment has been much lower than projected; the average age and morbidity of enrollees has been higher. . . . The current law’s structure [is] at best uncertain without significant changes, such as larger taxpayer subsidies and/or tougher penalties for violating the mandate. –Scott Harringon in Forbes

    Harrington stresses the need for “greater flexibility in coverage design under state authorities,” and adds

    The devil will be in the details concerning benefits that could be dropped in streamlined plans, and the details will certainly be controversial. –Harringon

    Comment: In other words, the current arrangements cannot continue, the quality of replacements depends on details we do not know, and the Democrats are currently trying to block Trump’s appointee, Dr. Tom Price, who will help design the replacement.

     

     

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  • “Can American pay for the Wall with avocado purchases?” ask the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post

    The Tribune story is here. (Chicago Tribune via the Washington Post)

    Comment: I, for one, am ready to do my part and eat the first billion or so.

    But it is pure media bias to say we would need to import 25 billion avocados and simply omit the other essential imports, from taco chips to cilantro, from jalapeno peppers to garlic and tomatoes.

    How bland is the guacamole they make at Tribune Tower?

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, January 23

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Chuck Schumer, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate, has been slow-walking Pres. Trump’s Cabinet nominees. 21 need Senate approval; only two have received it.  Some of the fault is the nominees. Some were named late and many have very complex finances, which require disclosure, resolution of conflicts of interest, and the signature of ethics forms. But this is also a Democratic political stratagem.

    Comment: I don’t think this slowdown is smart politics for the Democrats, but that is hard to judge because their donor base may like it (even if it alienates ordinary voters).

    Whether it is smart politics or not, it harms the country not to have a full complement of senior executives running their departments.

     The political lawsuits begin, aiming to tie up Trump presidency  NYT headline: “Foreign Payments to Trump Firms Violate Constitution, Suit Will Claim”

    The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.

    In the new case, the lawyers argue that a provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause bans payments from foreign powers like the ones to Mr. Trump’s companies. They cite fears among the framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by gifts or payments. –New York Times

     Trump immediately begins negotiations with Canada and Mexico on NAFTA (CNN) The story contained no specifics.

     Chicago’s free-fire zones continue: 5 Dead, 44 Wounded over Weekend (Chicago Sun-Times)

     Solar panel prices continue to drop: good for consumers, bad for producers. Some producers are now losing money, but the industry is booming. Prices for home systems that recently ran $30,000 are now half that cost or less. The biggest producers are Chinese, but their home country is now the world’s largest solar market. (PRI)

     Tweets from Katharine Hayhoe, Jay Nordlinger, and Austin Knuppe

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Michael Lipson
     for Dallas Stars’ attendance