• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

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

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

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    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • Drowning in politically-correct language

     Quick tip on how to spot a university drowning in politically-correct ideology:

    ⇒ Your daughter’s acceptance letter calls her “they” so the school can avoid a gender-specific pronoun

    No surprise here, the school is Brown. (James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal)

    Other schools may be equally PC, but none tops good ole Brown. No, siree.

    There were labor camps in the Cultural Revolution that had more robust political differences.

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    Comment: Even tough-minded universities have succumbed. Alas.

    At the University of Chicago, where the Dean of Students sent out the famous “no safe spaces here” letter to incoming students, some Deans end their emails with a standard signature that explains “my preferred pronouns.”

    The last one I received was from a person named Stephanie, and I was shocked to discover her preferred pronouns are “she, her,” and . . . wait for it, yes . . . “hers.” That’s right. These administrators think you are so dumb, so clueless you need to be told the correct possessive. 

    Why? First, they are probably trying to show how oh-so-sensitive they are to people who are “gender fluid” and who, as a personal preference, use other pronouns. I am happy for folks to use whatever pronouns they want. Honestly. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. So, why not simply let them include that “preferred pronoun” thingy in their letters, without everyone else having to follow them like lemmings? Because, of course, it is crucial to display how sensitive and politically correct you are. Or, perhaps you simply fear your “sensitive” boss, who effectively demands conformity from underlings. That is an all-too-familiar type on campus: sensitive-but-tyrannical.

    Another group that might want to include preferred pronouns are people with names from other languages. Since I don’t speak Chinese, I wouldn’t know “Bojing” was male, “Bingwen” female. Again, if they want to include their preferred pronouns, that’s fine. In fact, I would find it helpful. 

    But don’t make everyone do it to display how earnest and sensitive they are.

    My name is Charles, and I’m going to make a wild assumption here that I don’t need to tell you  I prefer the pronouns “he, him, and his.” 

    As a special bonus, I won’t assume you are such a dunderhead that I prefer the pronoun “he.” An odd choice, I know.

    I will also assume that, knowing I’m a “he,” I gonna go with “him” and “his.”

    But I fervantly hope, dear reader, you could have figured that out on your own.

    Even if you went to Brown.

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    Thanks to James Freeman for the article and David Herro for sharing it  

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 18

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

     The “inspired” has expired: “I’m here to die in the name of Allah,” and the attacker did just that at Paris Orly Airport  (CNN)

     Chuck Berry, who helped create rock-and-roll, dead at 90. A full account here at ZipDialog, along with a recording of Johnny B. Goode.

     Trump wants to build a wall 30 feet high that is hard to climb or cut through and looks good from the US side, according to contract notices posted on a US Government website.  (Associated Press)  There will be automated gates for people and vehicles.

    The government will award a contract based on 30-foot-wide sample walls that are to be built in San Diego. –AP

    Pres. Trump’s proposed budget included an initial $2.6 billion request. The total cost is expected to be $12-15 billion.

     Hillary Clinton says she is “ready to come out of the woods.” (New York Times)

    Comment: The woods are overjoyed.

     Republican House bill on healthcare would allow states to tailor some requirements, including whether to require able-bodied adults to work or engage in some substitute, such as volunteer work or education.

    Here is how the Washington Post headlines that news. You be the judge if this is a fair headline:

    “Republicans threaten to deny poor people medical care if they aren’t working” (Washington Post headline)

    Many forms of public assistance, including food stamps, require recipients to work, look for work, volunteer or participate in vocational training. The work requirements vary from one program to the next and have varying requirements vary by the program and traits of the recipients, such as their ages and whether they have children.

    Yet when it comes to health insurance, such requirements would be nearly impossible to enforce, conservative and independent experts on the Medicaid program said Friday. –Washington Post

    Comment: If you wondered what Harry Reid is doing after retirement, he’s writing headlines for the Washington Post

     Parody Song: “I’ve Got Friends in Safe Spaces” 

    Come on in and let’s be cozy. Showin’ off participation trophies

    Watching CNN in safe spaces –Chad Prather and Steve Mudflap McGrew

     Finally, Donna Brazile admits that she was cheating at CNN.

    She was doing it to help Hillary but still won’t admit that. (She says she did it to make “all our candidates look good.” A bald-faced lie. What did you leak to Bernie, Donna?)

    Of course, Hillary still won’t admit she received the questions in advance.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 14

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

     CBO projects Trump/Ryan Obamacare replacement would save money but that 24 million fewer people would be covered  (Washington Post)

    The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year –Washington Post

     CBO ignites firestorm with ObamaCare repeal score, reports The Hill

    Democrats highlighted President Trump’s campaign promises to provide “insurance for everybody,” saying the bill falls woefully short.

    “The CBO’s estimate makes clear that TrumpCare will cause serious harm to millions of American families,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said in a statement. –The Hill

    How does the CBO get these numbers?

    The CBO estimated that 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026 under the bill, largely due to the proposed changes to Medicaid. Seven million fewer people would be insured through their employers over that same time frame because some people would choose not to get coverage and some employers would decline to offer it. –The Hill

    Comment: The numbers create obvious political problems for Republicans, and the Democrats will exploit them.

    Here is how I figure Republicans will respond, at least publicly:

    1. The basic problem with the CBO score is that it compares the new program to Obamacare, as if the ACA will continue to exist and cover people. But it won’t. Obamacare is collapsing financially, so those people will actually lose coverage if we don’t repeal it and replace it with something sustainable. Even if Obamacare totters on for another year or two, insurers are dropping out and, as they do, monopoly providers will raise rates, forcing more people off Obamacare insurance.
    2. CBO projections are often wrong, and they certainly have been about healthcare costs and coverage.
    3. Even if 24 million fewer are covered, some of them may choose not to buy coverage since, unlike Obamacare, it is not mandated.
    4. By law, the CBO can only score the bill in front of them. For technical reasons (related to Senate reconciliation rules), we cannot include key measures that will reduce insurance costs and thus attract some of those 24 million to purchase insurance. The main measure will be sale of insurance across state lines and, secondarily, reform of costly tort laws.

     A quote to celebrate spring training: Bob Uecker’s thoughts on catching Phil Niekro’s knuckleball:

    The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up. –Bob Uecker

     The “progressive left” makes a regressive argument for stamping out speech…and they get to decide which speech.

    Here’s Slate’s cover story:  “The Kids Are Right: There’s nothing outrageous about stamping out bigoted speech

    Comment: The article is an artful scam, making its argument by allusion and demonization, without confronting serious counter-arguments.

    It says some speech is bad and “informal rules” ought to limit it, without explaining who gets to set those rules and what criteria should be used. Then, it notes that our Constitution does permit some restrictions on speech. That’s right, but it is a good reason to say, “Let the First Amendment set the restrictions, not Slate magazine writers.”

    The article goes on to attack Trump, Bannon (whom it explicitly calls racist), William Buckley (too religious), and others loathed by Slate readers.

    It concludes, “The purveyors of logic, of facts dutifully checked and delivered to the public, lost big league in November.”

    Why is that an argument for shouting down Charles Murray? It’s not. 

     Two airlines cancel routes to Cuba. Too little demand. Other airlines are cutting back flights and using smaller planes  (Miami Herald)

    Comment: Fortunately, one airline is still flying to Cuba, and doing it on their terms.

     EU’s top court rules employers may prohibit staff from wearing visible religious symbols, such as Islamic headscarves, at work (Reuters)

     Democrats cannot figure out how–or whether–to oppose Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch (Politico)

    Comment: He’ll win easily in the Senate and go onto the Court. The only question is how quickly Sen. leader McConnell will move.

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
     for the airlines cancelling flights to Cuba and the story at Slate favoring speech suppression.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, March 12

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

     Turkey’s relations with Europe continue to decline. The latest: Netherlands deny entry to Turkish foreign minister; Turkey’s leader, Erdogan calls the Dutch “Nazi remnants.” (Fox News)

    Comment: Erdogan is transforming his country, and not for the better. For years, Turkey was secular, a legacy of Ataturk’s revolution after World War I. Erdogan has turned it toward Islam, though not as strident a form as some other countries. For years, Turkey was a semi-democracy. He has increasingly assumed dictatorial powers and is in the midst of an election to reinforce those powers.

    Having failed to enter the European Union, his latest gambit was to hold up Europe for ransom to slow the flow of refugees fleeing regional wars. Now, Erdogan sounds less and less interested in that bargain.

     As North Korea’s arsenal grows, experts see heightened risk of ‘miscalculation’  (Washington Post)

    ZipDialog has frequently focused on the growing threat from this belligerent, erratic country with an unstable regime.

    Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and ­Korea experts. Pyongyang’s growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.

    The military developments are coming at a time of unusual political ferment, with a new and largely untested administration in Washington and with South Korea’s government coping with an impeachment crisis. Longtime observers say the risk of conflict is higher than it has been in years, and it is likely to rise further as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to fulfill his pledge to field long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. cities. –Washington Post

     Saturday Night Live has become an editorial page. Will viewers prefer that or comedy? 

    The New York Daily News, which shares SNL’s politics, puts it this way: “Trump-dominated SNL showdown features ‘complicit’ Ivanka Trump, ‘racist’ dog, ‘distracted’ Jeff Sessions” and called it a “mud-slinging showdown.”

     Harvard Library lists many legitimate, conservative news sites as fake. (Washington Examiner)

    Included on their “fake, false, and misleading” list are the Washington Free Beacon, the Weekly Standard, the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, and Independent Journal Review, but not Fox News. The sites listed are legitimate sites with strong conservative leanings (of different varieties). Comparable progressive sites, such as Mother Jones, are not listed.

    Comment: If this were an editorial for Slate or the New Republic, it would be par for the course. But it is not. It is presented as a seemingly-neutral, professional guide for students and scholars. In that guise, with Harvard’s official imprimatur, it is truly shameful

     Genetic testing and the workplace: major privacy issues  CNBC reports

    Workers participating in so-called workplace wellness programs reportedly could be ordered to get genetic testing — and hand over the results — by their employers or face financial penalties, if a bill being pushed by congressional Republican becomes law.

    That bill, passed by a House committee Wednesday, could end up as part of the second phase of planned Obamacare-replacement legislation, the STAT health-care news site reported Friday. –CNBC

    Comment: Expect a slew of ethical, legal, financial, and political issues to arise as medical-testing technology improves. We will have ever-increasing capabilities to link genes to future diseases and even behavior. Employers and insurers will want to know. Individuals will want privacy.

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  • PC gone mad, elementary-school edition

    This from the oh-so-hip corner of Massachusetts:

    Northampton police discontinue ‘High-Five Friday’ at elementary schools after complaints

    Since early December, Northampton police officers have greeted elementary school students with “high-fives” on Friday.

    The event was called “High-Five Friday” — billed as a way for officers to connect with students and show support for schools. But no longer. High-Five Friday was canceled last week following complaints from the public, Police Chief Jody Kasper said Sunday. . . .

    The complaints, according to a police department Facebook post on Saturday, centered around the questioned effectiveness of the program and some students who “might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school.”

    The post mentions children of color, undocumented immigrant children or other children who may have had negative encounters with law enforcement. …

    Gina Nortonsmith told the [school] committee the program was well-intentioned but “ill-considered, tone-deaf and potentially damaging.” –Daily Hampshire Gazette

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    A hearty thanks to Marty Geraghty and Sean Fitzgerald for picking up this load of ….

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 17

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

     CBS headline: “IMF predicts faster growth for U.S., citing Trump impact” The CBS report is here. The full IMF report is here.

    The report, which focuses on the next two years, comes with an important caveat. The new administration’s policies are unclear, so there are a wide variety of possible outcomes.

     China threatens to “take off the gloves” against Trump over Taiwan  Reuters reports tough talk from Chinese officials, reflected in state-run media there.

     Just hearing Trump’s name “triggers trauma,” says squeamish California church  So they won’t say it in prayers for the president, as they have for Pres. Obama (and presumably his predecessors).  The story is here, in the Washington Times.

    Leaders of a California church have come to the decision to stop praying for the president of the United States by name, because they say “Donald Trump” is a “trauma trigger” for some parishioners. . . .

    The rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena sent all his congregants a letter saying

    Whereas before we prayed for ‘Barack, our president,’ we are now praying for ‘our president, our president-elect, and all others in authority.’ This practice will continue for at least the near future. –Washington Times

    Comment: Of course, they can pray for whoever they wish, or not pray at all. It’s a free country. But state your reasons honestly and show some respect for people who have suffered real trauma.

    (1) Calling the words “Donald Trump” a “trigger for trauma” is an insult to the millions of men and women who suffer from PTSD because of rape, shootings, war, and other horrific events.

    (2) This is really a political stance–which they have every right to take–but they are not taking it honestly. They are hiding the reason for their change as a concern for parishioners’ health. It’s not. This is simply a political stance, or perhaps a marketing calculation that praying for Pres. Trump will drive away the customers. Again, they have every right to do whatever they want. But show a little backbone and state your real reasons.

    Brexit: Which courts will rule Britain?  Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May has said that European courts will no longer rule within her country after Brexit. She was just contradicted by the new head of the European Union, a rotating position that will be held by Malta’s PM. He said that if Britain wants a transition period in pulling out of the EU, it will need to accept rulings from the European Court of Justice. The (London) Times has the story. (Times, via the Australian)

    Related Story: PM May rejects “partial EU membership” (BBC)

     European Union opposes moving US embassy to Jerusalem  The AP story is here. (via Business Insider) The stance is a standard one for European diplomats.

    “It is very important for us all to refrain from unilateral actions, especially those that can have serious consequences in large sectors of public opinion in large parts of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after chairing their talks in Brussels. –AP

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for story on European courts and Britain

     

  • Requiem for Obamacare–and a comment about how to discuss policy differences

    2comments No tags Permalink 0

    A childhood friend, an intelligent progressive, told me that her views and mine had parted ways when I attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). Her objection was that I wanted to repeal-and-replace it, rather than improve it. I will explain why in a moment.

    Her view is perfectly legitimate, even if I disagree. What is not legitimate, I think, is her effort to convert a disagreement over policies into “moral shaming,” implying that my values are contemptible.

    How to Discuss Policy Differences

    I don’t want to defend my values here. Rather, I want to say two things:

    ◆ First, converting policy differences into moralistic stances of right-and-wrong ends all discussion and creates serious problems for broad engagement in policy issues. The failing is bipartisan. Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans are both guilty of it. The side that you think does it more probably says more about your own position (they do it) than it does about the distribution of moralistic arguments. Arguments about “rights” have the same quality.

    ◆ Second, the moral status of many policy outcomes depends on how well the policies work. (In philosophy, this is known as a “consquentialist” position and is opposed to a “deontological” one.)

    Example: Minimum Wage: You  and I could both want to help the poor. You might think a $15 minimum wage does that. I might think it leads to greater unemployment among the least-skilled, does not allow them to get a foothold on the job ladder, and will speed automation of low-skilled jobs, worsening their prospects in the future. Both positions are “pro-poor” ethically; which one is pro-poor practically depends on what actually works better.

    It is also possible to take either position and be anti-poor. That has an important implication. Your motives can be good and the outcomes very bad. The road to hell, as they say, can be paved with good intentions.

    Now, on to my views about Obamacare

    There is, I think, a national consensus that our country should provide health care to those who cannot afford it or qualify for it. I share that view. It is tenable because of our country’s wealth.

    That consensus existed, nationally and personally, before the ACA. The ACA debate advanced the national consensus that, instead of relying on emergency rooms, we should provide insurance for those who need it. I agree with that, too.

    I think (and most Americans agree with me) that the ACA was a poorly-crafted, overly-bureaucratic way to do that. It was sold to the public in a way Pres. Obama and his aides KNEW was deceitful at the time. The structure was fundamentally wrong and could not be remedied, in my opinion.

    Politically, it could not be remedied for a different reason. There were deep divisions between the parties when it passed. No Republican Senators shaped it or voted for it. The Democrats owned it 100% and, time after time, the voters threw them out of office for their votes. It was politically toxic. For the Republicans to remedy the law, they would have to have a major role in reshaping it (which the Democrats did not want) and would have to take partial ownership (which the Republicans did not want).

    You can blame either party, or you can blame the President and party leaders for being willing to pass the first major social legislation in modern American history without bipartisan buy-in.

    The public never bought in, either. Despite the President’s Sisyphean efforts, Obamacare has never been popular, although specific elements of it are.

    If you think my judgment about these issues a moral lapse, so be it.

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, Dec. 28

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

    ◆ Mall brawls in 9 states. “Police suspect social media.” says ABC News, careful to avoid any awkward analysis. 

    Comment: Oh, yeah. The problem is social media. Not the breakdown of the family and social order in poor, African-American communities. Let’s blame it on cell phones. That’s the ticket.

    ◆ A powerful argument by Bill Galston for the Obama administration’s vote against Israel at the UN and against Trump’s appointment of a hardline ambassador to Israel. Galston, a centrist Democrat, thinks the Trump appointment could spell the end of US support for a two-state solution. That, he thinks, would be a grave mistake. The opinion piece is here in the WSJ.

    ◆ Helluva Headline‘F**K YOU. GO TO HELL’: Georgetown Prof Loses It On Muslim Trump Voter. (Daily Caller)

    The victim: Asra Q. Nomani

    …a former Georgetown journalism professor and Wall Street Journal reporter, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post Nov. 10 explaining why she, as a Muslim woman and “long-time liberal,” voted for Trump.

    The attacker: Prof. Christine Fair

    C. Christine Fair, a previously “friendly colleague,” went on a 31-day screed against Nomani spanning across Twitter and Facebook. According to Nomani’s Dec. 23 follow-up complaint to the university, the “Peace and Security Studies” professor called her a “wretch,” “clueless dolt” and a fame-monger.

    Fair also compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and asserted that Nomani’s vote for Trump “helped normalize Nazis in DC.” –Daily Caller

    ◆ Germany’s catastrophic intelligence failure. The headline tells it all: Morocco Warned Germany Twice About Berlin Killer Anis Amri; German Intel Did Nothing (PJ Media)

    ◆ Hacking law firms’ secret info for insider trading. After indicting several Chinese individuals for their insider trading, based on hacking law firms’ secret information, US Attorney warns law firms of the problem. (Washington Times)

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Alex Gobman
     for the Galston article.
    ◆ Tom Elia for the Georgetown meltdown