• Another Congressional dirtbag caught paying accusers with OUR money–and trying to hide it

    He’s Blake Farenthold (R-TX). $84,000 settlement.

    Name ’em. Shame ’em.

    Shame the party if they don’t cut off campaign funds to him.

    Transparency on the whole thing so the voters (primary and general) can decide whether to keep him, if he doesn’t resign in disgrace.

    NYT story here.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, November 20

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

    Merkel’s Troubles–and Germany’s After her narrow election win, she cannot form a coalition government. Prefers new election (Deutsche Welle, in English)

    The coalition problem was that she needed support from the leftist Greens and pro-market Free Democrats.

    She couldn’t find common ground between them.

    Comment: Her larger problem is that she’s past her “sell-by” date and has a tin-ear for ordinary Germans’ disgust with open borders, which have led to millions of immigrants and serious problems with unassimilated Muslim populations.

     Charles Manson dead at 83. Remembering his victims: Rich, famous, fringe, and random (Los Angeles Times)

    Comment: Unspeakable evil–with the power to persuade others to join his malign fantasy.

    US designates North Korea as state sponsor of terrorism (Politico)

    Iran, Sudan, and Syria are already on the list. It had been placed on the list in 1988 and removed by George W. Bush in 2008 as a carrot during failed nuclear negotiations.

    “This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.

    Should have happened years ago. –Pres. Trump (quote at Reuters, link here)

    Comment: The big question remains: Will China adhere to US-imposed sanctions or call our bluff by cheating on them?

     Sen. Franken: Second woman accuses of “inappropriate touching” (New York Times)

    He won’t resign, says his hometown paper, the Star-Tribune.

     Roy Moore: Obstinate denials despite mounting evidence, stays in the race

    Comment: His refusal to withdraw leaves Senate Republicans in a world of hurt.

    Meanwhile, Moore received support at a press conference, featuring women who have worked with him.

    Unfortunately, all these women have the same drawback. They are adults.

     

     

  • Moore Troubling Stories: Reports from Alabama’s leading papers

    ZipDialog readers know that, when stories about cities or states break, I turn to the best local news sources.

    They have better local contacts and often know more than the media who fly in for the day.

    In the case of Roy Moore, the national media are best covering how the Republican Senate and the White House are responding.

    The Alabama media is best on what locals know and how they are responding.

    Today’s lead webpage from AL.com, a consortium of Alabama’s largest papers, is dominated by the Moore story. (The page is below)

    The most interesting new information is (a) Sen. Shelby (R-AL) suggesting a Moore “consider” withdrawing, and (b) Reports from Gadsden, where Moore was living as a young prosecutor, that his interest in young girls was well-known. (It speaks of “flirting,” not assault.)

    Here is the lead page of AL.com, dominated by the Moore stories.

     

    Moore’s side is looking into allegations that the accusers were “paid to come forward.” If that is true, it would cloud their motives but not the substance of their charges.

    The same is true about the Washington Post; its motives may be partisan (as we know Gloria Allred’s are), and that always merits skeptical scrutiny, but it is the substance of these serious charges that really matters here.

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  • VERY disturbing allegations about Rep. nominee for Senate, Roy Moore, and sexual encounters with underage girls

    Moore–whose candidacy is disturbing for many other reasons as well–denies the accusations, made in the Washington Post (link here).

    He claims it is just smear tactics by the WaPo and the Democrats.

    Unfortunately for Moore (and the Republicans), the Post article names four separate accusers. No anonymous charges.

    No one says they had coitus with Moore.

    Three of the four say the encounters were only kissing. One says Moore provided alcohol, though she was underage.

    The most overt sexual encounter was between 32-year-old Moore and 14-year-old Leigh Corfman:

    Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.

    In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations.

    “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore, now 70, said.

    The campaign said in a subsequent statement that if the allegations were true they would have surfaced during his previous campaigns, adding “this garbage is the very definition of fake news.” –Washington Post

    Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said the obvious: Moore should step aside if the allegations are true. (The Hill)

    Alabama laws complicate any effort to step aside.

    It’s unclear whether the Alabama state party will stand by the nominee, but Alabama law bars any candidate from withdrawing their name within 76 days of an election. That could present a situation where Moore’s name is on the ballot but he cannot be certified the winner if he wins, according to Alabama state law.  –The Hill

    The legal status of a write-in candidate is unclear, according to The Hill.

    In short, this scandal involves

    • Serious allegations
    • Multiple named sources
    • Denial by Moore
    • No easy solutions for the Republicans, even if Moore withdraws

    Comment: With such a thin majority in the Senate, the Republicans’ loss here would imperil their already-tottering legislative program.

    Moore was a terrible candidate before this. Rude, crude, and utterly ignorant of policy issues, as I wrote about him after he won the Republican primary (link here). Of course, I knew nothing then about these disturbing allegations, which seem credible.

    This story will move rapidly, I’m sure. It’s cannot sit where it is now, after the Post story. Others will investigate, and the pressure on Moore will be enormous.

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, November 8

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

    ◆ Democrats win big in off-year elections. The most important: a surprisingly large victory in the Virginia Governor’s race

    Comment: NJ returning to a Democratic governor is not surprising. In Virginia, which is shifting from purple to a blue state because of the DC suburbs, the surprise is not Ralph Northam’s win but his 9-point margin over a good Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie.

    Northam’s margin tells me Democrats are motivated, even after a divisive primary. Hillary won Virginia by 5 points. Down-ballot Democrats are also doing very well.

    President Trump’s begins his biggest stop: Beijing

    There are three major issues on the table: North Korea, China’s expansion in the South China Sea, and China’s asymmetrical trade relations with the US.

    Comment: More on this stop as news emerges.

    Texas Mass Killing: “Botched Air Force handling of Texas shooter’s criminal history may be ‘systemic’ issue” (Fox News)

    The 2015 Department of Defense Inspector General report analyzed a sample of 1,102 convictions, including felonies, handled in the military court system and found the Navy, Air Force and Marines failed to send criminal history or fingerprint data to the FBI in about 30 percent of them. –Fox News

    Ratcheting up the financial sanctions on Chinese banks doing business with North Korea (Reuters)

    Senate Finance Committee votes unanimously on these sanctions, just as Pres. Trump lands in Beijing.

    The U.S. Senate Banking Committee unanimously backed new sanctions targeting Chinese banks that do business with North Korea on Tuesday, just before President Donald Trump visits Beijing for the first time since taking office….

    Washington so far has largely held off on imposing new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.–Reuters

    ◆ Curiouser and Curiouser: Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr also met with FusionGPS before and after the Trump Tower meeting (Fox News)

    The story about Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson and Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, comes from one of our best investigative reporters, Catherine Herridge.

    The co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm behind the unverified Trump dossier, met with a Russian lawyer before and after a key meeting she had last year with Trump’s son, Fox News has learned. The contacts shed new light on how closely tied the firm was to Russian interests, at a time when it was financing research to discredit then-candidate Donald Trump….

    Simpson and Fusion GPS were hired by BakerHostetler, which represented Russian firm Prevezon through Veselnitskaya. –Catherine Herridge for Fox News

    Comment: So, Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for this Russian firm and the Clinton campaign. That could be an innocent coincidence . . . or it could lead to some “synergies.”  So far, Fusion GPS has taken the 5th before Congressional investigative committees and fiercely resisted subpoenas for any records of their financial transactions.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . . ”

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 25

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

    ◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats

    How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.

     Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign 

    The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.

    The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.

    The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.

     Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders

    Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.

    The news is here:

    A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.

    The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.

    While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.

    The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News

    Comment: National news media have not reported this news.

    Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets 

    Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):

    In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times

    Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.

    I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.

    The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.

    The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here (Reuters)

    Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.

    Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.

    The local Arizona paper features this headline: Flake’s retirement opens floodgates to potential GOP candidates (Tucson.com)

    All those candidates are pro-Trump, but some are from more traditional elements of the party, others from the Bannon wing.

    The paper also notes that a divisive primary and an open seat gives the Democrats a chance to win for the first time in years.

    China’s Xi reveals Communist Party leadership, buttresses his own position and refuses to name a successor (BBC)

    All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.

    Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.

    Today in campus lunacy: Univ of Illinois education prof attacks difficult mathematics courses as evidence of white privilege (Campus Reform)

    “On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].

    Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:

    If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”

    To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”

    Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.

    Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes?  This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.

    Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).

    I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.

     

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the math-is-whiteness story

     

  • Government Debt and Political Hypocrisy (by both parties)

    I just read the comment of a Democratic friend who is shocked, shocked that Pres. Trump’s tax proposals will increase the US budget deficit.

    Factually, he’s right. So say all the static projections I’ve seen.

    But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

    My comment: US debt is a serious issue, but the political sparring is utterly hypocritical. It’s not just my Democratic friend. The Republicans are filling the air with their own false platitudes.

    Under Pres. Obama, US government debt doubled. We were not in a recession, as measured by economists, though we were coming out of a scary one.  During the Obama presidency, the economy was growing, albeit slowly.

    While Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were busy blowing up the budget, the Dems had only praise for “government investments” and “the stimulus effect.” As for the spiraling national debt, they were deaf, dumb, and blind. But they sure played a mean pinball.

     

    Here is the data from the (truly) non-partisan Center for a Responsibility Federal Budget, which does not lay all the blame on Pres. Obama.

    Not only were the totals substantially higher, they were substantially higher as a percentage of US GDP.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    The Sky Is Falling . . . or not

     

    At the time, Republicans strenuously complained, “The sky is falling.”

    Now, the shoe is on the other foot–and it is the other party complaining.

    And the rebuttals are coming from Republicans, not Democrats.

    It is the “party of fiscal responsibility” that is downplaying the impact of the tax cuts on national debt.

    Their main claim: “It’s all about growth.”

    The Democrats, who have never met a deficit they didn’t like, are complaining, “The sky is falling.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Democratic Complaints about Republican Deficits

    The Democrats’ complaints center on two issues.

    • First, the plan is Republican and the government is controlled by Republicans, not their own party. In this Congress, with this President, the Democrats’ attitude echoes Groucho Marx’s song, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

    • Second, the deficit will be caused by the government taking less money from citizens rather than the Democrats’ preferred way of running deficits: excess government spending.

    Both sides richly deserve the Claude Rains Medal for hypocrisy.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, October 22

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

    Japan’s tough, pro-American prime minister, Shinzo Abe, wins overwhelming reelection (Reuters)

    If he completes his upcoming 3-year term, he would become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. Economically, he has tried to relaunch the economy with monetary easing. Militarily, he has tried to ease the constraints of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

    [Japan’s] U.S.-drafted constitution’s Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. But Japanese governments have interpreted it to allow a military exclusively for self-defense.

    Backers of Abe’s proposal to clarify the military’s ambiguous status say it would codify the status quo. Critics fear it would allow an expanded role overseas for the military.

    Abe said he would not stick to a target he had floated of making the changes by 2020. –Reuters

    Comment: Abe’s reelection, which infuriates China, helps the US in squeezing North Korea.

    Pres. Trump says he will bring “biggest tax cuts ever in the history of this country” (Fox News, Trump interview with Maria Bartiromo)

    Says he thinks he has the votes, emphasizing the cuts but says there will be reform, also.

    Expresses some optimism on health-care changes, praises Lamar Alexander and emphasizes block grants to states.

     UN’s World Health Organization cancels outrageous appointment of dictator Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador” (Washington Post)

    The outcry rocketed around the world after this week’s announcement and seemed centered around one primary point: Can you be a “goodwill ambassador” if the world widely regards you as a violent, tyrannical despot? –Washington Post

    Comment: Some Twitter responses parodied the appointment, suggesting Kim Jong Un as Mugabe’s replacement.

    Battle among Republicans:  McConnell says Bannon, others gunning to knock off GOP incumbents are ‘specialists at nominating people who lose’ (Washington Post)

    McConnell went on to say that the effort of Bannon and others “isn’t going to help President Trump achieve his agenda. He needs a Republican Senate and a Republican House to confirm judges, to pass legislation that is important to him and to the country.” –Washington Post

    Comment: Bannon and his supporters respond that McConnell’s people have not actually passed the Trump agenda.

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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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