• ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, August 16

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

    Trump doubles down on moral equivalence, blaming all sides for violence in Charlottesville. 

    Comment: Not just a tactical mistake, IMO–an ethical travesty.

    It is a tactical mistake, of course, because it keeps this dreadful, wrenching story alive for several more days and will undoubtedly animate the crazies on the left.

    It is also true that some on the far left came to fight; so did some anarchists, who sided with them.

    But the main points are these:

    • The whole event occurred because the neo-Nazis and KKK came to town to “defend” the statue of Robert E. Lee
    • It was one of their number who actually killed somebody, and
    • In such times, the President’s first responsibility is to rise about partisanship and speak for the country as a whole, to act as a stabilizing presence.

    Trump failed.

    Speaking of failure…The American Bar Association wants undocumented/illegal immigrants to practice law (Law Newz)

    On Monday, The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates passed a resolution demanding that Congress let undocumented immigrants practice law…..

    A few states allow undocumented people to become lawyers. California started allowing some people to practice law thanks to a bill passed in 2013. –Law Newz

    Comment: There is zero chance a Republican Congress will pass, or Pres. Trump will sign, this proposed law.

    Still, the ABA’s vote is shocking, even as virtue signalling (which is what it is).

    Why? Because, whatever you call these immigrants (undocumented or illegal), their first act on American soil was to break the law. They entered the country illegally. They are still here illegally. To entrust them to serve as “officers of the court,” which all lawyers are, makes a mockery of that term.

    Congressional Black Caucus Chair says U.S. “Is Not the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” (CNS News)

    Comment: Part of their new outreach to Middle America?

    Provo, Utah, mayor John Curtis declares victory in race to success Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Salt Lake City Tribune)

    He ran as a conservative Republican (though he had been a Democrat in 2000). One opponent ran to his right; the other was a relative newcomer and less well-known.

    Attitudes toward Trump did not play a large role in the race, according to the Salt Lake City paper.

    Alabama: Primary for US Senate to replace Jeff Sessions: Runoff next month between Republicans, winner to face Democrat (Al.com)

    Roy Moore will face Luther Strange in a runoff for the Republican nomination on Sept. 26. The winner will face former U.S. attorney Doug Jones in December. –Al.com

    Luther Strange is currently sitting in the Senate, appointed by the Governor. He was endorsed by Mitch McConnell (who got Trump to endorse him) and had establishment money. But he underperformed badly in the primary.

    Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, who had support from conservative talk radio hosts, came in third–a major setback for them. Brooks will remain in the House and says he plans to run for reelection in 2018.

    Roy Moore, who led the field, is a very controversial figure, best known for his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from the state Judicial Building, despite a Federal Court order to do so. That refusal (in 2001) led to his removal from the bench; he had been Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In 2016, when he was again Chief Justice, he was suspended (and later resigned) for ordering lower-court judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, even though the ban had been overturned by Federal Courts.

    Comment: Moore praised Brooks on election night–a smart strategic move–and is now in a strong position to garner his votes as the most anti-establishment candidate.

    Because Moore is so controversial, expect this race to receive national attention.

     

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  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, July 9

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Donald Trump, Jr., says he, Paul Manafort, and other campaign aides met with a Russian lawyer. The New York Times (here) and Washington Post (here) both play this as big news, but they don’t explain why. The Russian lawyer is connected to Putin’s circle, though it is not clear if Jr. or others knew. It was a brief meeting (20 minutes) and mostly raised the issue of resuming US adoptions in Russia.

    Comment: There are two reasons the meeting could be significant.

    First, Trump’s people had earlier denied any meetings at all. There was at least this one brief meeting.  Were there more? Did they go anywhere?

    Second, there is speculation (at the Daily Beast) the meeting was surreptitiously set up by a Democratic group, the Fusion GPS people. These are the fine folks who produced the dicey dossier on Trump. We don’t know a lot about Fusion GPS, including which Democrats paid for their services and why they were hired, but they seem to be part of an opposition research program. If that speculation pans out, then it looks like the Democrats were leading Trump’s people into a trap–not because anything really happened at the meeting but because the mere fact of a meeting with Russians looks bad in this increasingly anti-Russian environment.

    So far, a lotta would-a, could-a. Not much did-a, so far.

     ISIS, its “caliphate” in ruins, its capital of Raqqa about to fall, still inspires jihadis globally (New York Times)

    In Iraq, the group still controls Tal Afar, Hawija, other towns and much of Anbar Province. In Syria, most of its top operatives have fled Raqqa in the past six months for other towns still under ISIS control in the Euphrates River valley . . . .

    Many have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 110 miles southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert. They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions, American officials said. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides. –New York Times

    Comment: About 18% of the ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe and North America involved fighters who returned from the battlefield. The other 82% were terrorists who had not been on the battlefield but were “inspired” by ISIS propaganda and radical imams, either in-person on online.

    Since these are typically low-tech attacks on soft targets, such as pedestrians on sidewalks, they are very hard to stop.

     The latest in aggie tech: farms inside shipping containers, using precise LEDs (Washington Post)

    Local Roots, a California company, has created an indoor farm that can turn any produce into local produce, anywhere. They grow fruits and vegetables in shipping containers that are stacked in old warehouses or parking lots, which can either be connected to the grid or, eventually, powered by solar energy. Local Roots has designed the custom growing technology and hardware, and it owns and operates the farms, selling its produce to restaurants and food distributors under its own brand. The fact that the company is vertically integrated differentiates it from other container farming systems. . . .

    Local Roots has figured out how to make the farm efficient enough that it can sell produce at a comparable cost to conventionally-grown fruits and veggies.

     Parental vetoes? Reports they are increasingly concerned about children attending universities with little tolerance for different ideas, little protection for free speech, and a uniform, “progressive” ideology (Inside Higher Ed)

    Comment: The parents are absolutely right. But the impact of the “parental veto” is probably exaggerated.

    There is no evidence that top schools like Brown are pinched–or intend to change. They still get the cream-of-the-SAT-crop and teach them to march in lock-step ideologically.

     Corrupt Illinois totters along: Passed the first budget in two years, huge tax increases, ZERO reforms  As the Chicago Tribune reports:

    Illinois’ bruising two-year run without a state budget is over, but business leaders are left feeling they got the short end of the stick: higher taxes with virtually none of the regulatory and political changes they sought.

    The $36.1 billion budget plan increases the corporate income tax rate to 7 percent from 5.25 percent and the personal rate to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent. –Chicago Tribune

    Comment: The Democrats delivered for the public-sector unions and shafted taxpayers, once again. 

     This is real. I swear.

    Comment: It sounds eerily like the scene at the Star Wars bar.

     

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
    ◆ Ed Vidal
    for the article on parental vetoes of elite colleges
    ◆ Christina Sommers for VIDA survey

     

  • How bad is Illinois credit? Worse than customers at an East St. Louis Pawn Shop

    Make no mistake: the splat will be painful–very painful.

    And it will be felt by everyday folks across the state.

    It is likely to start after the Independence Day break, when we enter the third fiscal year without a state budget–or the revenues to meet current expenses.

    The bond agencies that rate states, municipalities, and corporations are likely to respond by downgrading Illinois’ debt to junk-bond status, the first time that has happened to a state in modern US history.

    That low-credit-rating raises borrowing costs significantly.

    At the same time, the failure to pass a balanced budget means the state cannot meet current expenses.

    Taken together, the credit downgrade and failure to pass a budget mean Illinois cannot fully fund current outlays out of current income and it cannot borrow without paying through the nose. For sketchy borrowers like Illinois, lenders demand a risk-premium; otherwise, they would be better off lending to more creditworthy clients. That is the happy position Illinois and Wisconsin are in, thanks to prudent fiscal managewment.

    What happens, starting in July?

    Road repair and construction will stop immediately.

    Schools across the state, including Chicago’s massive system, won’t have the money to open in August since local districts depend on state contributions.

    Out-of-state vendors have already stopped doing business with the state for fear they won’t be paid. That includes the multi-state lottery, Powerball.

    In-state vendors, whose payments have been delayed for years, are thinking about stopping sales to the state.

    Social services for the poor, sick, and elderly, already cut to the bone, will be cut further.

    Day-to-day, there is already too little revenue to pay state bills so the comptroller has been prioritizing.

    But there are limits to what she can do, and those may be further constrained by federal court cases, demanding the state pay for certain required services. If the state paid for those requirements first, there would be no money left for anything else.

    Uncharted waters

    There are no federal provisions for states taking bankruptcy, where creditors take a haircut and there are orderly work-out procedures, so we are moving into uncharted waters.

    As some early-modern maps said: Cave! hic sunt dragones

    Warning, there are dragons here.

    There are, indeed, dragons lurking–and they are hungry.

  • Why is America’s wealthiest state (Connecticut), with very high taxes, spiraling into financial crisis?

    The fiscal crisis is Illinois in profound and well-known.

    The one in Connecticut has gotten less attention. Here is some key data (Fox Business)

    Revenue shortfalls in the state register around $450 million for the current fiscal year alone, while estimated deficit totals are projected to clock in near $5 billion for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years combined, according to The Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Debt outstanding levels and unfunded pension liabilities relative to revenues are among the highest of any state in the country, Moody’s Investors Service said in May.

    As previously reported by FOX Business, income-tax collections are projected to fall  in fiscal year 2017 for the first time since the recession.

    Connecticut’s financial despair comes despite the state government’s approval of one of its largest tax rate increases ever in 2015.

    Comment: The crucial point is that they are already paying high taxes, and they raised them again recently. And it is not like Connecticut’s public services are the gold standard.

    There are two implications, I think:

    1. If higher taxes solved the problem, then they wouldn’t have these fiscal problems to begin with
    2. Connecticut’s high taxes and moderate services mean they simply pay more and more to get the same thing. That is almost always due to higher costs for public sector workers. (Since those workers are a key element of the Democratic voter base, the implication is that Democrats long controlled the state and rewarded their base. That is certainly what happened in Illinois.)

    If you try to solve that by continuing the same policies, you compound the problems and drive away people who can create new jobs and income. That’s the story in Connecticut, where tax revenues are now falling despite a rising economy and higher tax levels.

    If it weren’t for the hedge-fund industry around Greenwich, which generates huge revenue for the state, the crisis would be much, much deeper.

    They better hope those investors don’t hear the siren song of Texas or Florida, where there is no state income tax.