• 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.



    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.