• ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Wednesday, February 8

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

     After a bruising battle over Betsy DeVos for Sec. of Education (DeVos was finally confirmed), The Hill reports “Democrats seek new targets

    Comment: Seek and ye shall find. Next in Chuck Schumer’s sights is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the nominee for Attorney General. Then Scott Pruitt for the EPA, Dr. Tom Price at HHS, and Andy Puzder for Labor. The Democrats will drag these out and then lose the votes. The electoral-politics question is whether these slash-and-burn tactics build their base or simply please the existing one.

    Republicans say, rightly, that these Democratic tactics play to that party’s activists and donors and that the minority party can only delay, not stop, the nominations.

    Democrats say, rightly, that they oppose these candidates because of profound policy differences. These nominees will directly attack core Democratic policies; it is hardly surprising that the constituencies built around them are fighting like feral cats.

     Related story: Democrats show fierce anger at Republican lawmakers in town halls  (The Hill)

     “Homeland Security Chief Admits Travel Ban Was Rushed” (NYT headline) 

     This is the kind of innovative cost-savings the private sector can bring to government  (The Postillon, Link here)

     Why Children Ask “Why” and What Makes a Good Explanation  (Aeon)

    Giving a good answer to a ‘Why?’ question is not just a philosophical abstraction. An explanation has cognitive, real-world functions. It promotes learning and discovery, and good explanatory theories are vital to smoothly navigating the environment.

    Results from psychology . . . expose a striking similarity between children’s and scientists’ explanatory reasoning. Both children and scientists look out in the world, trying to find patterns, searching for surprising violations of those patterns, and attempting to make sense of them based on explanatory and probabilistic considerations. Children’s explanatory practices offer unique insight into the nature of good explanation. –Matteo Colombo, writing in Aeon

     “Paul Ryan says Obamacare replacement bill will be completed this year” (Reuters via CNBC)

    Doing that, major tax reform, and something permanent about immigration–all of them demanded by Trump voters–will strain the White House and Congress to the limit, especially because the Democrats will fight them hard.

     The World Foremost Authority, Prof. Irwin Corey, has died, still speaking gibberish at age 102 Prof. Corey was a staple of variety shows in the 1950s and 1960s, his disheveled hair pointing in all directions as he mumbled academic-sounding phrases that went nowhere (but pointed the way toward post-modernism).

    The high-point of his career, at least for us academics, was when he fooled the 1974 National Book Awards into thinking he was Thomas Pynchon, accepting the award for Gravity’s Rainbow.

    No one in the crowd had any idea what the reclusive Mr. Pynchon looked like, and when Mr. Corey arrived to accept the award for him (the novelist had approved the stunt), many people thought they were getting their first look at Mr. Pynchon.

    They soon learned otherwise. Beginning his remarks, as he often did, “However,” Mr. Corey referred to the author as “Richard Python” and said, “Today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure.” He continued: “Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium will be the opiate. Ah, that’s not a bad idea.” NYT obituary for Prof. Irwin Corey

    Here is a 1-minute glimpse of Prof. Corey doing his shtick.


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ David Wayne Henley
     for the IKEA border wall
    ◆ Harry Bushwitz for “Why Children Ask Why?”


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, January 9

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

    ◆ Axelrod urges Democrats to avoid obstructionism He was speaking to a politically-savvy group in Chicago. (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: When David Axelrod talks political strategy, he is giving very valuable advice. I think he is here, too, both for Democrats and the country. As a political strategy, D’s should (and I think will) focus on a few targets. Their problem is that so many Trump nominees are ripe targets for the Democratic base: Sessions at Justice, Pruitt at EPA, DeVos at Education, Tillerson at State, and Puzder at Labor, plus whoever Trump nominates for the Supreme Court.

    ◆ Main Democratic Targets among Trump Nominees

    Comment: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has spoken of at least eight targets. Unless some damaging information, not currently known, emerges about them, each has enough votes for confirmation. The Democrats’ goals are to

    • Put up a strong fight to please their base
    • Damage Trump, his nominees, and their agenda
    • See which nominees are most vulnerable to assault and then focus their fire heavily on them

    There is actually a ninth target. The Democrats are certain to fight against Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Schumer has already said as much.

    ◆ WSJ says the Trump Economic Team has different perspectives on trade. Not everyone is a protectionist, they say. (Wall Street Journal) 

    Donald Trump is rounding out an economic team with competing power centers and contrasting views that could lead the White House in unpredictable directions as it tries to steer the U.S. toward faster growth.

    Several selections reinforce the basic split that permeated Mr.Trump’s campaign, with market-oriented advisers from the Washington and Wall Street establishment on one side and free-trade adversaries on the other. –Wall Street Journal

    Comment: One other division is likely to emerge.  Some, led by Mulvaney, are budget hawks. (Mulvaney was a member of the House Freedom Caucus, associated with the Tea Party.) Others, including Trump himself, have spoken of major infrastructure spending and shown no willingness to cut major entitlement programs, aside from Obamacare.

    ◆ Ryan, Trump economic team working together on tax overhaul, reports Fox Business.

    ◆ Related Story: Small Business optimism greatest since Reagan era Bloomberg reports here.

    Comment: The prospect of tax cuts and relief from burdensome Washington regulations are driving the animal spirits.

    ◆ Congratulations to Clemson for winning a great game against Alabama to become national college champions. It literally went down to the last second, which Clemson’s great QB connected for a short touchdown pass. Alabama played a great game, as well, but Clemson matched them stride for stride and ultimately had one stride more.


    ◆ To Rick Santelli and producer Lesley McKeigue for hosting me on CNBC Tuesday morning.
    People are still talking about Rick’s appearance Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, when he criticized Andrea Mitchell’s biased coverage. “On election night, I never saw you so unhappy,” he told her.
    Honesty is such a rare and refreshing approach.


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Saturday, January 6

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

    ◆Intel report directly accuses Putin of meddling in US election. The declassified report reaches this conclusion:

    We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

    The full report is available here.

    ◆ Congressman takes down offensive painting sponsored by his colleague. The painting, depicting police as killers and as pigs, was the bright idea of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO) and was done by a high school student.

    Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) asked Clay to take it down and, after a week without response, took it down himself.

    “I was angry,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told FoxNews.com. “I’ve seen the press [reporting] on this for about a week or so. … I’m in the Marine Corps. If you want it done, just call us.”

    The Fox News story is here. The story in Rep. Hunter’s hometown San Diego paper, with effusive thanks from police, is here. Rep. Clay has refused to comment.

    ◆ The coming fight over the Environmental Protection Agency. Pres.-elect Trump has nominated, Scott Pruitt, a strong backer of hydrocarbons and a sharp critic of EPA overregulation, which he fought as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. The environmental groups are gearing up to oppose him and now, Politico reports, his supporters are raising big dollars to back the nominee.

    ◆ Charles Manson, who led a murderous cult in the late 1960s, is now too weak for surgery. (NY Daily News) Turns out he wasn’t a model prisoner, either. (Daily Mail). Now 82, he’s been in prison for 45 years and seems to be near death.

    ◆ Paris suffers drop in museum visits as tourists fear terror. Visits to the Louvre have dropped 20%. The story is here. (Daily Mail)

    ◆ ISIS had a factory in Iraq making weaponized drones. The US military has now confirmed what observers long suspected. (Weekly Standard)


    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Fred Lawson
     for the Duncan Hunter, Lacy Clay story. Lawson was once a police officer himself.


  • The Coming Fight over Rex Tillerson at State

    Guest Author Mike Bauer is an active Democrat

    He is involved with political communication, lobbying, and fundraising in Chicago, in Illinois state politics, and nationally, as well as in a variety of civic and philanthropic causes.

    He is responding here to my question about which Trump nominees were likely to face the toughest opposition from Democrats, given that Senate Democrats cannot wage a battle on all fronts.

    I sent that request to several knowledgeable Democratic friends, thinking they would have a better sense of what their party will do.  This is my friend Mike Bauer’s answer.

    [Editor’s note: ZipDialog is delighted to include this post. The opinions are those of the guest author. Readers are invited to respond. At ZipDialog, we take dialog seriously.]

    Mike Bauer writes:

    ◆ I believe that Rex Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State and John Bolton’s rumored appointment to be Deputy Secy of State SHOULD Be the Dems top two fights for confirmation because of the threat each provides to our national security – Tillerson because he it too compromised by his Exxon-Mobil stock options (worth in the nine figures) to objectively confront Putin and Bolton because he makes neo-cons look like peace-niks and has never seen a Muslim country that he doesn’t want to bomb.

    ◆ I expect that the Dems top three targets WILL BE Sessions as Atty Gen, DeVos at Education and Pruitt at EPA –
    ⇒Sessions because as AG he would threaten many organizations in the Dem coalition fearful that he would weaken prosecution of voting rights laws, discrimination cases against racial, LGBT and women’s communities‎ and police brutality cases;
    ⇒DeVos because she would threaten teachers’ unions, one of the Dem coalition’s most powerful components; and
    ⇒Pruitt because of pressure from environmental groups and major donors like Tom Steyer and a near universal acceptance by Dems of the premise that we are running out of time very quickly to reverse the harm from climate change.
    ◆ That’s not to imply that Price at HHS, Puzder at Labor, Carson at HUD and Perry at Energy also aren’t disasters. But at most, I expect the Dems will pick three appointments to fight the good fight so as not to appear either too partisan or too obstructionist.

    The opinions in this post are those of the guest author. He and ZipDialog welcome your response.

  • Trump’s Cabinet Picks Do Not ♥ Their Agencies: Good

    The Washington Post is shocked, shocked to discover that Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are not always enamored of the departments they are picked to lead.

    Here’s a clue: Trump ran on that platform, and he will be judged on how well he delivers. What counts is not delivery on the specific points of his platform. What counts is delivering results on the group–practical results for voters, many of whom see centralized, bureaucratic government as a meddlesome, deep-pocketed adversary.

    Philip Bump, a senior reporter for the WaPo, begins his analysis with  the snarky (but correct) point that former Texas Governor Rick Perry is best remembered for his “oops” moment, when he could not remember one of the three big bureaucracies he would eliminate if elected president. Turns out it was the Department of Energy. Today, Donald Trump selected him to head that department. (Washington Post)

    Scott Pruitt has spent a lot of time as Oklahoma’s Attorney General suing the Environmental Protection Agency for overstepping its regulatory authority. Now, he will take the helm of the EPA. But if the Washington Post thinks that’s a contradiction, they are mistaken. Pruitt may be right or wrong about the EPA’s overreach, but what better way to restrain it than by appointing a restrainer-in-chief to head it.

    Betsy DeVos undoubtedly plans to eviscerate the Department of Education’s programs that have not produced results and to launch others to support school choice. I urge reporter Bump to walk around the WaPo newsroom and find anybody, aside from the janitorial staff, sending their kids to the District’s everyday public schools. (I am leaving aside magnet schools.) When Pres. and Mrs. Obama had to make that choice for their own daughters, they moved them from a private school in Chicago to a private school in Washington, even as they were guillotining the District’s successful school-choice plan for impoverished families.

    Tom Price, who will head Health and Human Services, has been among the sharpest critics of Obamacare and among the best-informed.

    Bottom line: If things were working well in Washington’s bureaucracies, then fine; stay the course. If things were working well in Washington, Trump wouldn’t have been elected, either.

    He was. They aren’t. And his appointments say he intends to shake up the status quo.



  • Expect fireworks: Trump’s controversial choices for Labor and Environmental Protection

    If Trump and the Democrats were looking for a street fight–and looking to do it early–then they’ve got the perfect cause. In fact, they have it twice over, with the President-elect’s hardline picks for Labor and Environmental Protection.

    ◆ Trump’s pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, has run a fast-food chain that includes Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., after rescuing them from financial troubles. He’s a sharp critic of the minimum wage, and you can expect the Democrats to battle him hard. Some Republicans won’t be happy, either, because he is no foe of Mexican immigration. The Los Angeles Times profiles Puzder.

    ◆ Trump’s pick for Environmental Protection, Scott Pruitt, is equally controversial. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, a deep-red state that produces lots of hydrocarbons, Pruitt has sued the EPA frequently over its regulations and said the science about climate change is “not settled.” Here’s his background from Oklahoma’s major paper. Again, the Democrats will go to war to stop him.

    ◆ Comment: Why the fireworks? Because Democrats see these picks as more than controversial candidates. They see them as a giant middle figure from the Trump administration on central Democratic policy positions: higher minimum wages and tougher environmental regulations.

    That’s why Democrats are likely to fight hard against these nominees and could well try to filibuster them. “We certainly agree the president has a right to propose nominees,” they will probably say, “but the Senate has a duty to ‘advise and consent,’ and these nominees are outside the mainstream, so we do not consent.” I expect Chuck Schumer and other Democrats will say something like that (unless they are up for election in coal-dependent states).

    Trump must know that, and either thinks he can win the fights outright or benefit politically from waging them.

    In any case, his picks are important signals. To jittery grassroots conservatives, they say, “I’m with you on these issues.”

    To Democrats and many big-business Republicans, who would prefer less controversy, they say, “No more business-as-usual in Washington.” (Charles Lipson comment)


  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, Dec. 8

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

    ◆ Jill Stein’s chances of winning the presidency decline slightly. Federal judge, appointed by Obama, says “no” to Michigan recount. (The Hill)

    ◆ Artificial intelligence making progress in business, but it still has a long way to go, says Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal. 

    Mims highlights three main limitations:

    1. Most businesses don’t collect enough data to feed into AI systems
    2. Most businesses don’t have enough processes where the cost savings would justify the AI investment
    3. AI programmers and engineers are in short supply, making them expensive

    Of course, all these limitations can–and will–change. So will the availability of off-the-shelf AI systems, which will be much cheaper to use.

    ◆ Sharp opponent of Obama environmental initiatives picked to head Environmental Protection Agency. He is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has spent a lot of time suing the very agency he will head. (The Hill)

    ◆ Another day, another general in the Trump cabinet. This time, it is retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly for Homeland Security (Washington Post)


    ◆ The Washington Post runs news articles against Trump each day. Today’s says that “Paul Ryan’s attacks on Hillary Clinton could come back to haunt him.” How?

    With each passing day, Trump is tangling himself in a knot of potential business and family conflicts of interest while he runs the country. That means Republicans in Congress could soon find the tables turned: Democrats clamoring for ethics investigations of the president. And what’s more, they’d be able to point to Ryan’s own argument — that no one should be above the law — to make their case. –Washington Post

    Comment: Right and wrong. It’s certainly right that Trump’s business entanglements could become problems. In fact, I’m sure they will be. Political opponents have already started using them against him.

    But to say that Ryan will be hurt by those attacks is a stretch. Ryan said “no one should be above the law.” He’s right. That ought to include Trump, Clinton, and everyone else. (Charles Lipson comment)

    If Ryan meant only that no Democrats should be above the law but it’s ok if Republicans are, then he ought to be attacked. Maybe the WaPo should wait and see before judging him guilty.

    ◆ Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC, installs three sculptures to honor Hillary Clinton. (Fox News) Entitled “Red, White, and Hillary Blue Diamonds,” the installations include a placard saying they are:

    Dedicated to former Senator Hillary Clinton, who is the beacon of dignity and guiding light, as a thank you for her strength as we move forward.–Fox News

    Comment: The committee said the sculptures replace those honoring Thomas Dewey.





    ◆ Send interesting stories to
    Charles (dot) Lipson at Gmail (dot) com