• How seriously should we take disturbing tweets and posts by “the other side”?

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    We can’t help but see these nasty outbursts on social media.

    When we don’t catch them ourselves, our friends circulate them with the caption, sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit,

    “See, this is what people on the other side are like.”

    Our friends highlight these posts to show just how bad “the other side” is.

    The post they forwarded is proof positive.

    Those other guys must be

    • immoral
    • heartless
    • stupid
    • racist or
    • all of the above.

    They might be. But I’m usually not so sure . . . even if the specific tweets or social-media posts are dreadful or idiotic.

    When a post is disgusting, it shows that the person who posted it deserves condemnation. Anyone who retweeted it with a positive spin deserves condemnation, too. Shame on them. Shaming them publicly is perfectly appropriate.

    What’s not justified is to generalize and associate all sorts of people with that post, unless there is some evidence such views are commonplace on the other side. That’s true whatever the issue, and whatever side you take..

    Millions of people post all sorts of things everyday, on all sides of every issue.

    It is too easy to cherry-pick despicable statements from non-entities on the other side of any disagreement.

    They don’t reveal anything larger unless they are commonplace and widely defended, or come from prominent people.

    There’s a price to be paid for circulating these “bad posts” to friends and implying that “our opponents are like this.”

    It reinforces our sense of righteous superiority–and others’ inferiority.

    It is yet another cut into our country’s already-fraying bonds of discourse.

    We need to talk more, not less, with people who have other perspectives.

    And we need to begin by not assuming the other folks have bad intentions.

  • Pressure Mounts on Congress to Disclose Hush Payments, Name Sexual Harassers

    Politico reports

    Lawmakers in both parties say members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer money to settle harassment claims without being named.

    Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) proposed legislation Wednesday that would mandate public disclosure of sexual harassment settlements — and ban Congress from footing the bill for such deals in the future. Within a few hours of introducing his bill, DeSantis had been contacted by several Republican and Democratic lawmakers asking to sign on.

    “It’s taxpayer dollars at issue; taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent,” DeSantis said in an interview.

    Comments:  This is public money, and the public has a right to know how it is spent.

    Given the public outrage, I suspect legislators from both parties will rush to have their names listed as co-sponsors.

    • I don’t see how some version of this proposal doesn’t pass. The only way to kill it would be in back rooms, and I think the pressure is too great to do it. In fact, that’s part of what the public is angry about: background deals to protect themselves.
    • The bill should deal with non-disclosure clauses, as well.
    • The problem is not limited to the legislative broach. We need to know whether such payments have been made in the Executive Branch and the Judiciary.
    • I suspect we will see similar initiatives in state legislatures–for the same reasons.
    • Finally, we need to have a debate about whether public money should even be used for these purposes. The victims need to be compensated, but why should taxpayers, rather than the victimizers, pay?

  • UPDATED COMMENTARY on Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    It is increasingly obvious that the most important element of this whole story is

    • how low our public discourse has sunk,
    • how vile are the statements we make about political opponents, and, sadly,
    • how we impute the most foul motives to all our adversaries, turning them from “the loyal opposition” into “enemies and traitors.”

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    Here are a few more thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.
      • The problem is not that CNN’s panels are false. It is the channel’s bizarre news judgment that the story merits round-the-clock coverage for days, driven, I am sure, by their (correct) conclusion that the story harms Trump.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 20

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

    ◆ Tax Cuts, Tax Reform gaining momentum

    The Senate passed a Budget Resolution, the essential prelude to any effort to pass tax reform. Without the resolution, the tax bill could be stopped unless it had 60 votes. With the resolution, it needs 50 votes.

    Analysis: Whether it can get 50 votes depends on the details, which will affect different states, income groups, and economic sectors differently.

    Ending the deduction for state and local taxes, for example, hurts high-income people in high-tax states. That could cost Republican House votes if they represent such districts. (Most analysis misses the point that the state taxes hit high earners more so Republicans from middle-class districts might not be affected.)

    Giving everyone a large standard deduction sounds great . . . except to the residential real-estate industry, which thinks it will render mortage deductions meaningless for many middle-income buyers.

    Plus, we don’t yet know the breakpoints between tax brackets, so the impact on middle-income families cannot be forecast accurately.

    Politically, the Republicans must pass tax cuts. Whether they must pass larger reforms is less obvious. But even “must pass” legislation is a problem for this bunch.

     Unmasking investigation

    Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power made more unmasking requests than McDonald’s makes hamburgers. Now, Power has told the House Intel Committee that she did not make those unmasking requests. Somebody else did, using her name. (Fox News)

    Since the testimony was behind closed doors, it is unclear if she knew or assented to the requests, if she knows who made the requests, or if “masking” an unmasking request is itself illegal. It is certainly unethical.

    Now, the same committee has called Obama’s last Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to find out what she knows about these unmaskings and the Russia-Trump investigation. (Fox News)

    Comment #1: This massive unmasking for what seems like political purposes by the Obama Administration is not only a scandal in its own right. It will have real effects on national security if it blocks the renewal of FISA court authority, which must be done soon.

    Comment #2: It has also been reported that the FBI and DOJ knew about Russian bribery to obtain uranium ownership during the Obama years, when Hillary Clinton was Sec. of State. Bill Clinton was paid substantial funds personally for speaking to Russian entities at this time and the family foundation received vast sums (over $100 million) from investors with stakes in the transaction.

    This investigation was not revealed to the heads of Congressional Intelligence Committee, as is required.

    Moreover, this Russian scandal directly involves the FBI when it was head by . . . . Robert Mueller, now in charge of investigating Russian scandals.

    This stinks.

    US-backed forces declare “victory” over ISIS in Raqqa after 4-month battle (CBS)

    Comment: Now that ISIS is circling the drain, the real question is what comes afterwards in Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria.

    Iran and its proxies, Syria and Iraq, are determined to keep the Shiites in charge.

    That will fuel more radical Sunni insurgencies like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

    Catalonia’s bid for independence: Spain’s central government is now preparing to strip the region of its local powers (Los Angeles Times)

    The region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, did not renounce independence despite a Thursday deadline imposed by the central government.

    The escalating confrontation between Madrid and Spain’s most prosperous region sent ripples of unease across the continent, where European Union leaders are already wary of fissures within the bloc.

    Spain’s worst political crisis in nearly four decades of democracy could hamper a still fragile economic recovery in the country as a whole and cause particular financial harm to Catalonia, which is already experiencing a flurry of corporate flight. –Los Angeles Times

     Comment on Presidents and Fallen Soldier in separate ZipDialog post (here)

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  • Presidents and Soldiers of Blessed Memory: A Comment UPDATED

    As is so often the case, an issue with several important elements has been compressed and distorted, both by politicians and by the media.

    Here are a few thoughts on these somber issues, which are now, unfortunately, the subject of mudslinging.

    • It is right and fitting that presidents phone or write the loved ones who gave their lives for our country and for their comrades in arms. How Presidents undertake this terrible responsibility should be their choice.
    • It was wrong and unbecoming of Pres. Trump to criticize his predecessors about their ways of honoring our fallen soldiers.
      • ALL his predecessors were decent, honorable men who took these losses seriously. That should be acknowledged, not turned into a partisan football.
        • UPDATE: We can differ with people politically without concluding that they are, by definition, knuckle-dragging, immoral fools.
        • American politics is being corrupted by our collective inability to differ politically without slinging mud personally.
      • It is beneath the Office of the President to criticize President Obama on this issue. It should be publicly shamed.
      • Trump’s false and undignified criticism was sufficiently upsetting to Pres. George W. Bush, who has been the most dignified of recent ex-Presidents, that he spoke out publicly, at least indirectly criticizing Trump.
        • UPDATE: Steve Bannon’s criticism of GWB on these issues is noxious. Not surprising, but still noxious.

    • It is wrong and unbecoming for others, such as the Congresswoman from Florida, to do the same thing, turning a private moment of grief into her public moment in the spotlight.
      • Her bad behavior was made worse because she took a benign statement by the President and twisted into something malicious.
      • Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, known for her hats and not what’s under them, has now personally attacked Gen. Kelly, a Gold Star father.
      • She’s loathsome.
      • UPDATE: General Kelly incorrectly characterized Rep. Wilson’s speech in Florida at the building dedication. It was not all about her, as he said. She shared the credit for the building. (I am sure he misremembered, rather than lied.)
      • UPDATE: Sarah Sanders statement that Gen. Kelly cannot be criticized is clearly wrong and misunderstands the roll of free speech in our political discourse. That would be true even if Kelly were still an active-duty military officer. Sanders has properly walked back most of her statement, but, like most political figures, she can’t quite say the plain truth: “I was wrong.”
    • The loss of service members in Niger, which gave rise to this controversy, was a tragic military error, compounded by a lot of uncertainty about the events in their immediate aftermath. It is unclear why the military was slow to reveal publicly what happened.
      • The Democrats have implied that it is Pres. Trump’s “Benghazi” (that is, a high-level political coverup). It’s not unless there is a full-scale coverup and months of lying and misrepresentation, as there was after Benghazi.
    • CNN has run the story 24/7. That’s media malpractice. That, unfortunately, is also CNN’s motto.
      • CNN is like a dog with a bone: they bite it and hang on, long after all the meat is gone.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, October 2: Key Elements of Las Vegas Massacre

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

    ◆ The machine-gun massacre in Las Vegas dominates our thoughts–and news coverage

    It is remarkable how a few sad points encapsulate so many hours of heartbreaking TV coverage

    • 58 dead, so far
    • Over 500 injured, many seriously, so death toll may rise
    • Single gunman, perched on 32nd floor of hotel, had 10 guns in room
    • Shot into outdoor country-music festival
    • No link to international terror groups
      • Some groups did make false claims that they were responsible
    • Gunman was retired Nevada resident, no criminal history, lived in retirement community
    • Episode lasted 72 minutes
    • Gunman killed himself
    • Pres. Trump will travel to Las Vegas later in the week

    The media coverage is intense, naturally.

    The best coverage of the event itself is always a good local paper, in this case the Las Vegas Sun.

    Comment: The coverage will soon move in its predictable arc:

    • Who was the gunman?
    • What about the families of the fallen?
    • And, of course, “Gun Control” versus “Second Amendment.”

    This is the type of story we’ll see about the gunman: “Led a quiet life,” neighbors never suspected, etc. (Washington Post)

    The main goal is to explore what motivations–psychological or political–drove him to do this.

    Politically, the episode will also follow a predictable arc. In this case, the gun control advocates raised the issue immediately, led by Pelosi and Hillary. Of course, these cleavages are heavily correlated with party affiliation, now that there are so few Democrats from the south and rural districts.

    The early political calls after this massacre are worth noting because, in the past, the gun-control side often waited a day or two. Why the difference now? Probably because so many massacres have dulled the political motive to “wait a decent interval to mourn” and weakened the counter-argument that “now, when people are grieving, is not the right time to raise this issue.” (The same logic applies to terrorist events. As soon as we know whether it was actually a terrorist attack, people begin making political points. In the past, they often waited a few days.)

    In this case, gun-control advocates want to raise the issue immediately because they know it is very hard for their opponents to make persuasive arguments. Usually, the most effective NRA-type argument is that “even if we did everything you gun-control advocates want, it wouldn’t have stopped this shooting.”

    ◆ All other news pales as the terrible aftermath unfolds

     Here’s a small tidbit to watch for: It’s a good time to dump bad news for government agencies or corporations 

    They know people are preoccupied so fewer will notice. So, “Ooops, we polluted your river” is better disclosed now than next Monday.

    It’s the “Friday afternoon news dump” on steroids.

    So, keep an eye out.

     

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