• 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • 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.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 17

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

    Biggest story of the week is just under the radar: China’s Xi is consolidating his power to become most powerful leader since Mao

    Comment: This week’s Party Congress, held every five years, is the moment when Xi will try to push aside many of the constraints installed after Mao to prevent one-man rule. He has already done a lot of that, installing his people in the military and using the anti-corruption campaign to remove adversaries (and leave political friends and family untouched).

    By the end of the week, we’ll know if Xi has succeeded since some rule-breaking will be obvious by then (particularly waiving a rule that would require his political enforcer to retire because of age).

     No Cigar for the Drug Czar: Nominee Tom Marino Withdraws after news reports he weakened an anti-opioid bill (Washington Post)

    The Washington Post/CBS 60 Minutes piece showed he not only weakened the bill, his office was very close to big pharma companies with interest in the legislation.

    Comment: The swift move by Trump was inevitable after the report, given Trump’s focus on the Washington Swamp and the importance of opioid issues to the country and especially to his base.

     FBI Uncovered Russian Bribery Plot Before Obama Administration Approved Controversial Nuclear Deal with Moscow (The Hill)

    • Clintons were involved
    • The FBI kept it all under wraps

    Before the deal was approved

    The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

    Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

    They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill. –John Solomon and Alison Spann in The Hill

    Austria’s new leader: very young (31), very opposed to floods of new immigrants (x)

    NYT headline: Austria Shifts Right as Refashioned Conservatives Win. Socialists finished third, slightly behind nationalist-populist “Freedom Party”

    Under Mr. Kurz, the staid, traditionally conservative People’s Party was refashioned into a social-media-savvy political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters in a campaign focused on limiting immigration and strengthening the country’s social welfare system.

    Kurz will need to form a coalition government.

    The most likely coalition partner appeared to be the nationalist, populist Freedom Party, which initial results showed winning 27.1 percent of the vote. The party complained during the election campaign that Mr. Kurz had stolen its playbook, seizing on issues like limits to immigration and the threat posed to Austrian identity by Islam.–New York Times

    North Korea warns that “nuclear war could break out at any moment” (Bloomberg)

    Comment: Kim Jong Un’s desire for a deliverable nuclear arsenal is comprehensible as a defense for his regime. These kinds of threats are not comprehensible–or are badly misjudged. Presumably, they are trying to move the US off any military option. But Kim’s statements do highlight the very real danger of accident or inadvertent escalation.

     Trump and McConnell show unity . . . at least for now

    The New York Times story is here.

    Comment: It is all tactical, and it’s all about the tax reform bill, which is essential politically for Republicans on the Hill.

    They will also look for other areas to notch some wins, including judicial nominees, which have moved far too slowly through the Senate, as conservatives see it. Democrats have used every delaying tactic on the nominees and Republicans have let them get away with it.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    Clarice Feldman for the FBI-Russia story

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 13

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

    ◆ Very good economic news, twice over

    Overall, a very strong report across multiple economic sectors, despite the hurricanes.

    The retail sales report is closely watched because it provides an early read on consumer activity each month. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy.

    U.S. economic growth likely slowed in the July-September quarter as the hurricanes shut down thousands of businesses, people were forced to miss work, and power was cut to millions of homes. Analysts forecast that the economy expanded at a 2% annual pace in the third quarter, down from a 3% gain in the April-June quarter.

    Yet the economy is expected to rebound in the final three months of the year as rebuilding and repair work accelerates. –USA Today

    Comment: Very good news, indeed. To keep it going, especially as interest rates rise and the job market gets tighter, the administration needs to keep reducing regulations and get a tax cut through Congress.

    Trump refuses to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying it is not in America’s best interests

    He made a strong speech, which included an itemized list of Iran’s lethal attacks on Americans and its sponsorship of terror throughout the Middle East.

    The hardest immediate blow to Iran was Trump’s decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist entity. That’s important because the Revolutionary Guard is the regime’s enforcer and controls a huge chuck of the country’s economy.

    Next up: Congress has to determine whether to impose sanctions on Iran.

    If it does, then the US effectively withdraws from the multilateral “Joint Agreement.” But who knows what Congress will do, especially with Trump’s latest personal foe, Bob Corker, as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

    As expected, the other signatories to the agreement didn’t like Trump’s decision.

    No improvement in the horrific California wildfires. Death toll above 30 and expected to rise (Los Angeles Times)

    15 fires have burned over 200k acres so far.

    Trump hits Obamacare with a double whammy, ending subsidies to private insurers and urging competition across state lines

    Without subsidies, the insurers will likely stop providing policies to lower-middle-class consumers. The poorest are not affected because they are on Medicaid. The better off are not affected if they have employer healthcare plans.

    Whether insurers can operate across state lines will depend on whether state regulators allow it. Right now, they don’t.

    Conservatives are furious at Mitch McConnell and establishment Republicans for the very slow pace at which Trump appointees are approved (Daily Signal)

    Comment: The pace is extremely slow. Trump has been slow to put forward nominees in some areas. The Democrats have opposed everything, tooth and nail. And the Republicans have refused to change any rules to speed things along, giving free rein to the Democrats’ delaying tactics. Since many establishment Republicans oppose Trump, the delays may be just fine with them.

    But rank-and-file Republicans and many donors are not happy. They especially want to see judicial nominees moved along expeditiously.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • North Koreans Reach Out to Republicans to “Understand Trump”

    The Washington Post headline: North Korea taps GOP analysts to better understand Trump and his messages

    I wonder if this will be their followup?

    GOP, Democratic Analysts Ask North Korea for Help Understanding Trump’s Message.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 27

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

    Roy Moore wins in Alabama Republican Primary. Trump endorsed the loser, but it is still a victory for Trumpism, right-wing populism 

    Biggest loser outside Alabama: Mitch McConnell, who convinced Trump to get involved on the losing side.

    My guess is that Trump is beside himself with fury at McConnell. The only thing keeping them from all-out war is the need to pass tax reform.

    The main newspaper/website in Alabama has a concise headline on the outcome: Roy Moore rattles GOP in win over Luther Strange. They expect a “donnybrook” in the general election.

    I have a separate post on the politics of Moore’s victory (here)

    Comment on origin of word “donnybrook”: I hadn’t seen the word in a while and wondered where it came from.  I was shocked, shocked to find it is an area of Dublin, known for . . . .

    Tax Cuts and Reforms to be unveiled on Wednesday. More on that later this week when the details are available.

    The goal is to simplify, cut rates, and stimulate growth.

     The Health Care repeal and reform has died for this year. All that talk. No action. 

    The New York Times report is here.

    Comment: The Senate Republicans are in such a knot, they can’t even hold “regular order” hearings on the latest proposal, Graham-Cassidy’s federalist proposal.

    McCain and Susan Collins put the stake in it, but several other Republicans were also “no” votes.

     Bob Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won’t run for reelection. He is a center-right Republican from Tennessee (Washington Post)

    Two Chicago police officers “take a knee” in the police station. They are reprimanded by the department–but Mayor Rahm Emanuel offers no criticism (Chicago Tribune)

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • US Senate Race in Alabama: Roy Moore Wins Republican Primary

    Defeats incumbent Senatorial appointee, Luther Strange, despite Trump’s endorsement

    “Big Luther,” as Trump nicknamed him, was saddled with trouble from the beginning.

    He was appointed to office and many Alabama voters thought the decision was corrupt.

    It was made by the embattled, embarrassed, and now-departed Gov. Bentley.

    Somehow, the investigation of Bentley was stopped by the State AG’s office, headed by Strange. It’s not hard to figure what most people thought of that.

    Still, Strange was the incumbent, was endorsed and funded by Sen. Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and, thanks to McConnell, received Trump’s endorsement.

    Trump and Pence made trips to Alabama but never attacked Moore and, in fact, said they would support him in the general election. Moore is not so appealing to a general population but is still likely to win in a Deep Red State.

    Backed by Steve Bannon and the populist wing, Moore’s win is a “victory for Trumpism but not for Trump.” The president will take some (small) comfort from that. And he’ll be leery of opposing that movement again at the ballot box.

    Who is the Big Loser, Besides Luther Strange?

    Who is the big loser? Mitch McConnell.

    He loses twice over. First, he loses a reliable vote in the Senate. Roy Moore is a loose cannon (though he lacks much firepower). Assuming he wins the seat, he won’t be a reliable vote any more than Mike Lee or Susan Collins.

    Second, ole Mitch is not going to enjoy his talks with Trump. He got Trump to endorse a loser. Trump is gonna love that. Mitch couldn’t get his own guy over the finish line and managed to associate Trump with the thing he hates most: losing. And, of course, Mitch cannot get key legislation passed. Trump is gonna treat him like road kill, restrained only by his desperate need to pay tax cuts and tax reform.

    Moore is Less

    As for Moore, he is

    • Dumb as a box of rocks, which doesn’t seem to faze Alabama Republican voters
    • Knows nothing about public policy, which takes some doing for a man who has been in public office for years
    • Considered by Alabama Republicans to be the authentic voice of populist anger and religious fervor.

    It was this last point–populist fury and Moore’s identification with it–that led to his victory.

    Expect to hear plenty from the Democrats about the “rule of law” in our country. They will move to exploit Moore’s flat refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from a court building, despite being to do so by a Federal Court. We’ve been through that issue before in our country. It was decided right the first two times. Moore’s refusal to obey a legitimate court order is despicable. It got him booted off the Alabama State Supreme Court but was apparently a feather in his cap politically. Uggh.

    With all those deficits, it tells you a lot about the primary electorate’s mood that he won. And it tells you a lot about how conservative Alabama is that Moore is favored to win the General Election.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, September 5

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

    ◆ Another huge, devastating hurricane coming: Cat 5. Will hit Puerto Rico, then south Florida

    No one knows whether it might swing due north through Florida or later, after it hits the Gulf.

    DACA exemptions to end in 6 months unless Congress fixes 

    Washington Post story here

    The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would begin to unwind an Obama-era program that allows younger undocumented immigrants to live in the country without fear of deportation, calling the program unconstitutional but offering a partial delay to give Congress a chance to address the issue.

    The decision, after weeks of intense deliberation between President Trump and his top advisers, represents a blow to hundreds of thousands of immigrants known as “dreamers” who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. But it also allows the White House to shift some of the pressure and burden of determining their future onto Congress, setting up a public fight over their legal status that is likely to be waged for months. –Washington Post

    The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

    He called it an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch” and said the program was unlikely to withstand court scrutiny. –AG Jeff Sessions in WaPo

    Congressional Republicans plan legislation to fix. Democrats vigorously condemn Trump (Fox News)

    Congressional Republicans indicated Tuesday they will take up the Trump administration’s call to consider legislation to replace the Obama-era DACA program, though condemnation from Democrats over the decision to end it points to a heated battle ahead.

     America’s universities deny students fair hears on sexual-assault allegations, according to new report (FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education)

    FIRE’s Spotlight on Due Process report for 2017 (link here)

    A new survey reveals that the overwhelming majority of America’s top universities fail to provide students accused of serious misconduct with the most basic elements of fair procedure

    A shocking 85 percent of top institutions maintain policies that receive a D or F grade for due process protections

    Nearly 74 percent of institutions don’t even presume a student innocent until proven guilty. –FIRE

    Comment: The worthy effort to protect victims and ensure their rights has undercut the rights of those accused. This erosion began with orders from Washington bureaucrats during the Obama administration and has been carried out zealously on campus.

    GOP could move debt-ceiling and relief for Hurricane Harvey this week in Congress (Politico)

    Fiscal conservatives have objections.

    Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program: why he wants it (Washington Post)

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦