• ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, September 30

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

    ◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward

    Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.

    So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.

    We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.

    Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.

    Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone. 

    Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.

    Mike Pence protégé, Seema Verma, seen as frontrunner to replace Price: She has deep experience running government health care programs (New York Post)

    Verma currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the Affordable Care Act.

    Verma led Indiana’s expansion of Medicaid when Pence was governor.

    Comment: Experience is essential. HHS has 80,000 employees and a $1 trillion budget.

    Indiana has been one of the three or four best-run state governments for two decades or more. Running programs there is high praise. Running them in Illinois normally leads to indictment.

    Victor Davis Hanson on “A Lying Quartet”: The Obama Officials who Surveilled their Political Opponents (American Greatness)

    The names are familiar:

    Susan Rice
    James Clapper
    John Brennan
    James Comey

    With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.

    Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.

    So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson

    Colin Kaepernick: Imperfect Messenger. Donated $25,000 to group named after convicted cop killer who broke out of jail and fled to Cuba (Daily Mail)

    Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.

    Comment #2Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.

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    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Kaepernick story 

    ◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Friday, Feburary 10

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

     Dr. Tom Price finally approved by Senate to head Health and Human Services after harsh words  (Washington Post) Another party-line vote in the Senate on what the WaPo calls a “polarizing” candidate.

    ⇒ Related Story: This year’s Obamacare sign up reported at 12.2 million (US News)

    Comment: It is the policies that are really polarizing. Trump and the Republicans are determined to kill off Obamacare and know full-well that they will own not only the replacement but responsibility for the entire health-care system when they get rolling on it.

    The 12.2 million number is striking to me. The whole US health system was upended for such a small number and such skimpy coverage.

     Trump tells China’s Xi that US will honor supports “one-China” policy, does not support Taiwan’s independence  (New York Times)

    Comment: In the campaign, Trump had expressed doubts about the “one-China” policy, which is an issue Beijing will fight for. This is hardly the end of the increasingly militarized confrontation between China and its neighbors, though. Recently, China has (verbally) asserted its right of sovereign control over some islands that have long been Japanese. The US has reaffirmed that the islands are not only Japanese but that the US will help Japan fight for them under our bilateral defense arrangements.

    ◆ Related story: Japan’s Prime Minister Abe to meet with Trump this weekend (Wall Street Journal) The WSJ expects the visit to soothe worried US allies in Asia. Abe and Trump already have a strong relationship.

    North Korea Purges Its Chief “Enforcer,” the man who purged others.  (New York Times)

    Comment: When this kind of turmoil reaches the upper-tier of political officials, as it has now, the regime is clearly unstable. That poses dangers for all the surrounding countries.

     Russia, Iran supporting Taliban fighters against US in Afghanistan  So say top US commanders there. (Washington Free Beacon)

    Comment: Trump’s idea that Putin could cooperate in fighting terror group looks like a pipe dream in Afghanistan as well as Syria. 

     Luther Strange is Alabama’s new senator, appointed to replace Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General

    Comment: “Luther Strange”? No relation to Lex Luthor or any other comic-book villain, as far as we know. Still, a great name. 

     And finally

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  • 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.

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    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 . . Sunday, January 29

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

     Trump reorganizes membership on his National Security Council, removing Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, adding political adviser Steve Bannon (Wall Street Journal)

    Comment: THIS IS NUTS. Any serious national security decisions require direct input from the leaders of the military and intelligence communities. Besides their judgment, the president needs their efforts to implement decisions taken by the NSC and to coordinate their actions with other agencies. Removing them from the “NSC principals committee” is truly alarming.

    So is the inclusion of Bannon. Although the president needs political advice before making national security decisions, his decision to include his top political adviser on the NSC itself is a major error and another troubling sign for how foreign policy will be made.

    Where do Rex Tillerson (State) and James Mattis (Defense) stand on this? What does Dan Coats, the incoming DNI, think about this marginalization before he takes office?

    They have to wonder whether Trump, Bannon, and NSC Adviser Michael Flynn plan to run foreign policy out of the White House, with Flynn trying to dominate the Cabinet secretaries. (Charles Lipson commentary)   

     California, unhappy with Trump and happy with Sanctuary Cities, is looking for ways to block payments to Washington  (CBS San Francisco)

    The state of California is studying ways to suspend financial transfers to Washington after the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal money from sanctuary cities, KPIX 5 has learned. –CBS San Francisco

    Here’s a Quick Tip to Sacramento: Jerry Brown might want to check with George Wallace, Ross Barnett, and Lester Maddox and see how well this strategy works.

     Two Big Stories on Immigration

    ⇒ Congress to consider supplemental appropriation to build wall with Mexico (Fox News)

    ⇒ Federal Judge issues “emergency stay,” blocking Trump order on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries  (Washington Post)

    The Post also emphasizes global outrage at the Trump order.

    Judge Ann Donnelly of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the deportations after determining that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

    Minutes after the judge’s ruling in New York, another came in Alexandria when U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a temporary restraining order to block for seven days the removal of any green-card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport. –Washington Post

    ⇒ Meanwhile, spontaneous protests break out at airports opposing Trump’s ban. (AP)

     Professor of health management says Obamacare is fiscally unsustainable but asks if replacement will help people with preexisting conditions  (Forbes)

    Prof. Scott Harrington (U. Penn’s Wharton School, chair for health care management) notes Obamacare is in deep trouble:

    The subsidies and mandate have yet to produce balanced and stable risk pools in many states. Individual market enrollment has been much lower than projected; the average age and morbidity of enrollees has been higher. . . . The current law’s structure [is] at best uncertain without significant changes, such as larger taxpayer subsidies and/or tougher penalties for violating the mandate. –Scott Harringon in Forbes

    Harrington stresses the need for “greater flexibility in coverage design under state authorities,” and adds

    The devil will be in the details concerning benefits that could be dropped in streamlined plans, and the details will certainly be controversial. –Harringon

    Comment: In other words, the current arrangements cannot continue, the quality of replacements depends on details we do not know, and the Democrats are currently trying to block Trump’s appointee, Dr. Tom Price, who will help design the replacement.

     

     

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  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, January 19

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

     Clinton Global Initiative closing down, all world’s pressing problems solved  The story is here. (National Review)

    Two Comments First, when you rake in money by selling proximity to power, then you go broke when you don’t have anything to sell. It was all about access to the Secretary of State and the future President. Once she’s out of office with no prospect of returning, why would a hard-nosed sheik or kleptocrat give money to Clinton? If Trump had kept his faux-foundation open, they would have given it to him.

    Second, look who did not bother to cover the story.

     Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue picked as Agriculture Secretary The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

    And Trump went down to the wire with the Perdue pick, making him his last Cabinet selection before he is sworn into office Friday. The choice was mired in political wrangling, with some factions pushing Trump to opt for someone from the Midwest or to diversify his Cabinet by naming a Hispanic official.

    If confirmed, Perdue would become the new head of the $140 billion agency, which dictates the nation’s farm policy and also oversees the food stamp program. He would be the first agriculture secretary from a Southern state since Mike Espy of Mississippi headed the department in the early 1990s. …

    A native of Perry, Ga., Perdue helped craft the state’s agriculture policy in the 1990s as a Democratic state senator from Houston County before switching to the GOP in 1998. –Atlanta Journal Constitution

     Headline of the Day: “The French Version of SNL’s “More Cowbell” Sketch is an Insult to Our National Honor

    I have watched the French version so you do not have to. It is an insult to the great Will Ferrell-Christopher Walken version.

    Comment: I put my pants on just like the rest of you, one leg at a time. Then I make gold records.

     Schumer finally picks his target: The hit will be on Dr. Tom Price, nominee for HHS.  Schumer could not figure out which nomination to kill (until now, he had 8 possibilities), but now he has settled on Price, who will shape health care reform. Schumer has found an issue, too, if it proves out. He is raising questions about some trades Price made in health care stocks. Now the Senate Minority leader says “there is a very good chance Price won’t be confirmed,” according to The Hill.

    CNN reported on Monday that Price invested in a medical device company shortly before introducing legislation that benefited the company.

    President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has dismissed the CNN report, noting that a broker made the investment and Price wasn’t aware of it until after he introduced the legislation.

    But Schumer floated Tuesday that Price may have broken the law if he knew about the investment.

    “That cries out for an investigation,” Schumer told CNN. “If he knew about it, it could very well be a violation of the law.”

    Three Comments: (1) At the very least, Schumer will call for a lengthy investigation to slow-walk the confirmation. Predictably, Senators Franken, Warren, and Baldwin were shocked, shocked and called for delay on any hearings.

    If Price really violated the law, then the delay is justified and will sink the nomination. If not, not. Schumer has to convince some Republicans to join him; he can’t do that without real evidence.

    (2) The damaging report came from CNN, which was the first mainstream media outlet to report an unverified Buzzfeed story on possible Trump blackmail by Russia over a honeytrap sex sting. The story has not been confirmed since then and major news organizations have tried mightily and failed. If CNN stepped in it a second time, heads should roll and the channel’s remaining viewers should flee.

    (3) Price is a crucial appointment for the new Trump cabinet. None is more important.

     Obama’s Labor Department Sues Oracle for job discrimination  Says it pays white men more and–stop the presses–favors Asian people for “technical roles.” Oracle denies everything and says the lawsuit is political payback. The story is here. (Engadget)

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Randi Belisomo
     for the Clinton Global Initiative story. The comments are my own, of course. (Charles L.)

     

  • 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.

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    ◆ 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.

     

  • 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.

     

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Tuesday, November 28

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

    ◆ Oddly, Federal workers are concerned that Trump’s “Drain the Swamp” rhetoric might reduce the Federal workforce. (AP)

    ◆ Actual headline: Stop the Presses!!

    This is an actual AP story.ap-headline

    Jill Stein has sent out a fundraising letter, asking ask AP to recheck that.

    obamacare-simple-logo-purple-w-purple-background-250px-no-margins◆ Price to move: Georgia Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon before his 12 years in Congress, is expected to be named Trump’s Secretary for Health and Human Services. Price has been one of Obamacare’s toughest critics. Here’s the story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

    ◆ Related Story: Can Paul Ryan actually privatize Medicare? (Politico)

    If House Speaker Paul Ryan has his way, the 115th Congress won’t just repeal Obamacare, it will dramatically reform Medicare, turning the program into a form of private insurance.

    Ryan has long supported the controversial idea and, immediately after the election, he suggested that any Obamacare reform should include Medicare reform. Another key player, House Budget Chairman Tom Price, said Medicare reform was a top priority for the unified Republican government. –Politico

    ◆ America’s economic recovery has been weak by historical standards, but it is still strong enough to pick up the world economy, according to the OECD. (Reuters at CNBC)

    drone-200px-no-margins◆ It’s a brave new world: Robbery suspects in Tulsa chased home by drone and captured. (News on 6, Tulsa)

    An eyewitness saw the break-in happening. That eyewitness was talking to a drone pilot outside The Vault, where the break-in happened, so when the suspects took off, the drone did too. –News on 6, Tulsa

    “Hey, tell me something I don’t know,” mused Anwar al-Awlaki.

    ◆ More on Fidel.onion-castro-labeled2

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