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.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, October 11

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

◆ The devastation–human and material–keeps growing from California wildfires

 

Stand and Deliver: Goodell send letter telling NFL players he wants them to stand during anthem(ESPN)

No specifics on how the league plans to ensure it or act toward players who do not stand.

Comment #1: ESPN broke into their political coverage to cover this sports story.

Comment #2 re Trump vs NFL kneelers: ZipDialog predicted

(a) the league would cave after seeing the fans’ and advertisers’ reactions,
(b) Trump was politically smart to make this an issue; most people respect the flag, and ALL his base does; and
(c) when Trump won on this issue, he wouldn’t be shy about saying so.

 Horny Harvey and Hollywood Hypocrisy

Harvey Weinstein’s Behavior Was ‘Worst Kept Secret in Hollywood,” says actor (Fox News)

Comment: Now that he has been destroyed, the powerful people and institutions will finally speak.

I completely understand why the weak and vulnerable kept quiet; they are victims. But the powerful and well-entrenched who knew about this have no such excuses.

 The next phases of the Weinstein story, as I see it

Comment: Here are some obvious angles. The question is whether the media wants to investigate, given that they are directly implicated, along with their powerful friends:

  • Democrats who were close to him will have to defend themselves and offer stories about their ignorance (some true, some false)
    • Many are now saying they are “shocked, shocked” to find out this about Mr. Weinstein. Gimme a break.
    • Why did Hillary, Barack, and all the others wait five days after the NYT broke the story before commenting?
    • Why did all the late-night comedians (except John Oliver) maintain radio silence, as Saturday Night Live did? They will jump on Weinstein’s figurative corpse now, but where were they after the story broke?
  • The media will be all over the Weinstein story but they will downplay or ignore the media’s complicity or the Democrats role in it (just as the conservative media will harp on it)
    • The NYT, the most MSM of MSM outlets, deserves lots of credit for breaking the story. But they need to explain why they didn’t dig further a decade ago, when they first had the story. Lots of women were harmed in the intervening years.
  • What about the media outlets, like the NYT and NBC, that had the story and didn’t run it?  What about the gossip sites like TMZ? Why didn’t they investigate this well-known rumor?
  • What about the others sexual harassment and exploitation in Hollywood? Will the media investigate or wait for Gloria Allred? There have been rumors for years about pedophilia, but no real reporting.

Henry Kissinger meets with Trump. What’s that about?

Comment: Kissinger  has made one of the most sensible and serious proposals about working with China to resolve the North Korean crisis. He is also the most trusted intermediary to broker a deal between Beijing and Washington and to carry back-channel messages between the two. (Kissinger’s proposal was contained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, subscription)

My guess: Trump listened to Kissinger, said “great, if Xi is willing to do it. But if he won’t or it doesn’t work, tell him the US will act unilaterally in a wide variety of ways that the Chinese won’t like.”

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Hat Tip to

◆ Randy Helm for pointing out that the NYT deserves credit for breaking the story

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 10

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

◆ Massive Wildfires across Northern California. Blazes in Sonoma’s wine country have not been contained(New York Times)

At least 10 dead so far, 1500 buildings destroyed.

Comment: There are other fires in Southern California. Together, they challenge the state’s ability to respond.

 Tennessee’s centrist Republican Senator, Bob Corker, doubles down on his accusations against Trump

The New York Times broke the news and did an in-depth interview with Corker, whose attacks on Trump are as personal as DJT’s angry tweets at Corker. The Times’ latest article is here.

Comment: Corker’s attacks are important for three reasons

  • First, according to NYT reporters, Corker’s criticisms are merely the public voice of what most Senate Republicans say. Steve Bannon has said the same thing: establishment Republicans hate Trump and want to sink his agenda.
  • Second, since the Democrats oppose every Trump legislative initiative, he only chance to pass legislation is to hold together a narrow Republican majority. Now, Corker and McCain seem determined to oppose Trump. Add Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski to that grouping and you fall well short of 50 votes. (And most legislation will require 60.)
  • Third, Corker, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is privy to the highest-levels of US intel and diplomacy. He has recently said that Trump could be leading the US into World War III.

The husband-and-wife team indicted in the Democratic Congressional IT scandal have now turned on each other (Daily Caller)

The indicted husband-and-wife team of former IT aides to Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sat directly across from each other at the defendants’ table in federal court Friday in Washington, D.C., but refused to look at each other.

Even as they are co-defendants in a U.S. case, Imran Awan’s own wife, Hina Alvi, has become the latest person to accuse him of fraud, filing papers against him in Pakistani court, according to Pakistani news channel ARY.

Awan, his wife and two brothers — all previously on the payroll of House Democrats — became subjects of a Capitol Police investigation last year after investigators concluded they were submitting falsified invoices for equipment and had transferred “massive” data off a House server. After he was banned from the House network, Awan left a laptop with the username RepDWS in a Capitol Hill phone booth.

Although The Washington Post has reported that investigators found that Awan and his relatives made unauthorized access to a congressional server 5,400 times, Wasserman Schultz has said concern about the matter was the stuff of the “right-wing media circus fringe.” –Daily Caller

Comment: Whenever the defendants turn on each other, the prosecution benefits.

What do we need to know?

  • Were the Democrats’ confidential information shared with outsiders, including foreign actors?
  • Why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz stick by her accused aide for so long? Did he have anything on her?
  • How deep and wide does this scandal go?

Comment #2: Mainstream media has shown zero interest in this massive scandal.

Today’s “WTF” story

Comment: No matter how fearsome your school’s mascot, I’m betting that “Radioactive Wild Boars” is scarier.

The University of Arkansas should really consider upgrading their Razorback symbol.

 

 

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Will Portland become a Sanctuary City . . . for fleeing Californians?

Looks like no, according to this headline and picture in the main Oregon newspaper (link here).

Comment: California is now experiencing net out-migration. That hasn’t happened before. Some are moving to other hip locations, such as Portland and Seattle. But most are simply moving where the jobs are growing, such as Nevada, Texas, and other low-tax, business-friendly states.

If you build it (jobs), the locally-owned, organic, fair-trade coffee will come.

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, June 26

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

 After indications that Syria’s Assad might use chemical weapons again, Trump warns he will pay “a heavy price” for “mass murder” (New York Times)

Comment: As with most deterrent threats, it is hard to know whether it will work.

What we do know is that it is could work because it is credible.

That is, the target (Syria, in this case) has good reasons to believe we will do what we threaten if he acts.

After Pres. Obama’s failed “red line” and other missteps, our threats were heavily discounted.

It is worth noting, then, that Trump has managed to reestablish America’s deterrent threat quickly after 8 years of neglect and decline.

 CNN has made several major errors in reporting the Trump-Russia investigation, all adverse to the Administration.

After the retractions, three CNN journalists are going to spend more time with their families. Story here (Washington Post)

Comment: My sense is that CNN’s main viewership is airport passengers delayed in boarding.

I hope the transportation industry survives this setback.

 Amazing story, if further proof emerges. Circa reports that the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn began after he intervened to help a (purported) victim of FBI sexual discrimination.  Circa’s John Solomon and Sara Carter have done first-rate reporting on scandals, so their coverage should be taken seriously. The key here is that the person accused of discrimination is very high-ranking. Indeed, he was acting head of the agency after Comey stepped down.

The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.

Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.

There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.

McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.

Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.

Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus. 

The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.

The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.

This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.

 California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label.  They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)

 That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.

Story here.

Comment: Check the man for rabies.

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
for the Circa story on the FBI

◆ Sam Stubbs for the CNN story.

Sam reported it correctly, unlike CNN

 

California plans to tax space travel. Really.

Life in the tax-hungry state imitates the Beatles’ song

The once-Golden State is now so eager for funds that it is revving up plans to tax you if you head up, up, and away to escape the place.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle

The state’s Franchise Tax Board is seeking public comment on its proposal for computing taxes on commercial space transportation companies. –SF Chronicle

Who would face this tax?

Any company operating in California that generates at least half the money it takes in from “space transportation” — defined as the movement of people or property 62 miles above the surface of the Earth. . . .  It would apply to companies that use California as a launchpad, not California companies launching from other states, like Texas or Florida.

Predictable effect: Commercial space companies will launch from other states.

Lawyers for the moon are already contesting California’s claim it owes extensive back taxes for repeatedly circling the earth.

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, April 18

Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

 The big news continues to be tension in Korea, where Vice President Pence is visiting and told the North Koreans not to mistake the president’s resolve

Comment: This is a crisis of choice, in a sense. Trump, like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, could have kicked it down the road. All those presidents tried and failed to resolve the issue.

Delay is not always a bad solution, but it’s not always a good one, either. You have to figure out whether time is on your side or your adversary’s.

The problem here is that North Korea is making steady progress on two deadly fronts, and it is no longer willing to delay them for small bribes, like those paid by previous administrations.

North Korea is getting better at building nuclear bombs. It is trying hard to make them smaller, so they can fit on a missile, and it is trying to build a hydrogen bomb. Second, it is making steady progress building medium-range missiles and is seeking to build an ICBM. The combination of small nukes and long-range missiles would put the US within range of nuclear attack by a hyper-dangerous regime whose leader does not appear to be calm, steady, and rational.

The US has long said a North Korean nuclear threat to the US was unacceptable. Saying it, as several presidents have, is a far cry from making it an effective policy. That is what none have been able to do, and not for lack of trying. Trump seems to be doing something. We don’t know exactly what and we don’t know how effective he and his team will be. We do know it is risky to try; the Trump team has calculated that it is far more dangerous in the long run to sit and wait.

Over the longer horizon, then, it is Pyongyang’s policies and erratic, bellicose pronouncements that created the crisis.

Over the short term, though, the crisis was initiated by the US.

My interpretation: Trump, Mattis, Tillerson, and McMaster (and probably Coats and Pompeo) looked that North Korea’s military program and asked themselves a fundamental question: Is time on our side or theirs? If it is on ours, then delay. If it is on their’s, then force the issue. We can see first-hand what their strategic assessment is.

The hard part now is to force the issue with threats and not the actual use of force, which could lead to vast casualties. 

In using threats, Trump has a huge advantage over Obama. Trump’s threats to use force are credible. The Chinese and North Koreans–and America’s friends in the region–have to take that seriously for the first time in years.

 “Calexit” supporters drop their secession bid . . . for now (Washington Post)

Comment: Ken Burns is particularly disappointed.  His proposed PBS series began with a letter,

My dearest Tiffany–
If we should lose tomorrow’s battle, if I should die far from the gnarly waves of Newport Beach, I want you to know . . . .

 New York Times runs op-ed by “a leader and parliamentarian.”  That’s what the NYT calls him–and that’s all they say.

The paper overlooked his day job: he’s a convicted terrorist who murdered five Israelis.

Comment: You really can’t blame the Times if a writer omits a detail from their résumé.  

Of course, the writer is the most prominent Palestinian terrorist in jail. The NYT deliberately hid the crucial information about his murders from readers.

To compound this nasty piece of work, the Times ran it to gin up American public support for a hunger strike by jailed Palestinians.

The Daily Caller excoriates the paper, rightly.

And Elliott Abrams, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations blog, rips the Times a new one. Well worth reading. His conclusion nails a crucial point: the readers deserve the information.

 Shocking News: The US economy keeps growing but electricity use is flat. That’s what Bloomberg says. Per capita, it has fallen for six straight years.

 Lawsuit of the Day:

  • Professor comes into Wal-Mart to get fishing license
  • Get license but finds his employment listed as “toilet cleaner”
  • Humorless fisherman files suit

The AP story is here.

Comment: According to the lawsuit, the professor feared mockery every time he yelled “I caught another big one.”

 A serious story on the sexual-harrassment allegations against Bill O’Reilly  (Washington Post)

A key part of the story is the allegation by a Los Angeles author and radio personality, Wendy Walsh, who is not seeking money, which then led to an independent investigation by the prominent NYC law firm. It was the law firm’s negative findings on Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes that led to his departure.

As the Washington Post puts it:

A similar fate [to Ailes] could await O’Reilly; a negative finding by the law firm could force the hands of Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, who run Fox’s parent company.–Washington Post

 Here is tomorrow’s Washington Post opinion page. Notice a pattern?

The list continues beyond this screenshot. It is, as the mathematicians say, “finite but large.”

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Robert Lieber and Ed Lasky
for different reports on the New York Times‘ hiding the background of a Palestinian terrorist.

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, February 28

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

 Man, that seemed like a short month

 NY Teamsters were promised excellent retirement benefits by the unions that handled the pension funds. Now, the pensions are running dry  (New York Daily News)

[Tim] Chmil is one of roughly 4,000 retired Teamsters across New York State suffering a fate that could soon hit millions of working-class Americans — the loss of their union pensions.

Teamsters Local 707’s pension fund is the first to officially bottom out financially — which happened this month.

“I had a union job for 30 years,” Chmil said. “We had collectively bargained contracts that promised us a pension. I paid into it with every paycheck. Everyone told us, ‘Don’t worry, you have a union job, your pension is guaranteed.’ Well, so much for that.” –New York Daily News

Comment: This is a tragic story. The only silver lining would be to learn from it. Workers’ retirement funds are their own in 401k plans so they cannot be lost like this. The downside is that workers (like me) have to invest their own money and never make as much as the “defined benefit” plans like those promised by the Teamster Local 707.

But union leader will never, ever, never allow 401k plans if they can prevent them. Why? Because the unions themselves can determine who gets the heavy fees associated with their union funds. Because so much money is sloshing around, the chances for corruption are great. Those who control the pension money can direct it to their brother-in-law or to a friend who promises kickbacks. (Companies used to be able to do the same thing and often invested the money in those own company’s stock to raise the price. That is now illegal.) By contrast, 401k plans are normally very cheap to operate. Unions that control their own pension money can also determine which investments to fund. How do you think Las Vegas casinos were financed in the 1950s? 

Among the few defined benefit plans still around are those of government employees. After all, the taxpayers have to pay them and, at the state level, cannot lessen the burden by bankruptcy.

Well-governed states like Indiana have already converted all employees to 401k’s. Some states are unwilling to go that far but are at least putting all new public employees on 401k’s. And then there are Deep Blue states like Illinois, headed for a dumpster fire.

 “With Obamacare in jeopardy, California considers going it alone with ‘single-payer’ system”  (Los Angeles Times)

The problem, in a nutshell, is that this program would be enormously expensive and California is already in financial trouble.

In a single-payer system, residents would pay into a state agency that essentially functions as an insurance company. The agency would pay doctors and hospitals when people sought treatment.

Single-payer has a long, troubled history in California. Bills made it through the Legislature in 2006 and 2008 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But advocates say Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) increased support for single-payer by championing it on the national stage last year while vying to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

New York state unveiled single-payer legislation earlier this month. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) introduced a similar bill in Congress that would expand Medicare to cover all Americans.

But a 2008 report from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office found that even with a tax on Californians and the state’s pooled healthcare funds, the state would still be short more than $40 billion in the first full year of single-payer implementation.

“Where were they going to come up with the $40 billion?” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Economic Institute at the Bay Area Council. “It’s just not feasible to do as a state.”

Weinberg pointed out that a single-payer initiative was scrapped in a state as liberal and small as Vermont. A single-payer measure on Colorado’s November ballot also failed.

Comment: The proponents are California Dreamin’ on a winter’s day.

 Tom Perez, new head of Democratic National Committee, must rebuild his party from the bottom up. Opinion writer James Downie says “Tom Perez’s biggest problem as DNC chair: His backers” (Washington Post)

[The] reason for Perez’s entry and victory was simple: In defeating Ellison, the establishment wanted to rebuke the progressive wing and retain control of the party.

Therein lies Perez’s — and the party’s — biggest problem. The Democratic Party needs the progressive wing’s energy and new ideas if it is to recover. . . . The fact is that the party establishment doesn’t want to admit its failings. –James Downie in the Washington Post

Downie’s conclusion:

Rescuing the Democrats from this deep hole requires grass-roots energy — energy that clearly is most prevalent in the more liberal wing of the party, as seen in the surprisingly successful campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Capturing it means working with outside groups and listening to new ideas, not doubling down on establishment control.–James Downie in the Washington Post

Comment: Perez is whip-smart, well-educated, and skilled at insider politics.

He has only a slim chance of winning the Senate. He has a better chance of winning back the House, though he will have to do so with Nancy Pelosi as the facelift of the Party.

His biggest challenges:

  • Recovering some heft in state politics
  • Integrating the Sanders/Warren/socialist wing of the party without alienated more centrist voters. That would normally be impossible, but their shared opposition to Trump personally and to his agenda will help.

The oddity here is that Perez is on the party’s far left wing. It’s just that he is not as far left as Bernie Sanders, who, after all, is a self-declared socialist and not a member of the Democratic Party. (He joined only for the presidential race and resigned after it ended.)

 Bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, vandalism in Jewish cemeteries, and no arrests yet

These threats are becoming regular events, as the Washington Post reports.

It was the fifth round of bomb threats against Jewish institutions since January, prompting outrage and exasperation among Jewish leaders as well as calls for an aggressive federal response to put a stop to it. –Washington Post

In addition to these bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized. Several hundred tombstones were pushed over in Philadelphia, on top of a similar attack last week in St. Louis.

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Tom Elia
 for the NY union pension story
◆ Ron Hassner for list of Jewish Community Centers dealing with bomb threats

 

ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, February 23

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

 Mexico slams US immigration plans as US Sec. of State and Director of Homeland Security arrive in Mexico City  (CNN)

Comment: This visit by Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly is important and so is the rollout of new immigration policies if our country is to avoid a train wreck.

Americans are rightly concerned about illegal immigration and especially about recidivist felons and criminal gangs. But they are generally favorable to children who were brought here illegally by their parents. They want policies that focus on one and not the other.

Trump’s initial actions, as opposed to his rhetoric, look to focus on gaining control of the border, removing felons, and ending “catch and release,” all policies that have wide public support.

The danger is that hostile, high-octane rhetoric will produce predictable backlash in Mexico, increase the popularity of anti-American, Hugo-Chavez style politicians, and decrease cooperation within immigrant communities in the US. That is definitely not in America’s interest.

 Iowa legislator wants state universities to ask prospective faculty how they would vote. (Washington Post)

Comment: How about “I wouldn’t vote for any moron who would propose such legislation.”  Political bias in the classroom is an issue. This is not a way to solve it.

In an interview with NBC affiliate WHO, another Democrat, state Sen. Herman Quirmbach, called the bill “one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in 15 years here.” –Washington Post

Senator Herman Quirmbach told the NBC station that he had just seen his name on TV and would change it quickly to something less ridiculous.

 The Washington Post posts a new motto online

“Democracy Dies in Darkness” True enough, but really depressing. How about “Democracy Thrives in the Light”

The paper denies the motto was inspired by Trump. (Fox)

Comment: Yeah, sure. What’s the chance they would ever have run that motto while they were investigating  President Obama.

Actually, what’s the chance they would have seriously investigated scandals in the Obama administration? This is the sort of hooey that has generated such public distrust of the media–and that’s a terrible thing for democracy. 

 Judge blocks California law that–yes, really–says you can’t publish actors’ age if they say “no”  (Politico)

Comment: I wrote earlier about this unbelievably stupid, unconstitutional law: “California Dreamin’ . . . about abolishing the First Amendment”

 Disturbing news: “Study sees US Life Expectancy Falling Further Behind Other Countries” (CBS News)

Life expectancy in the United States is already much lower than most other high-income countries and is expected to fall even further behind by 2030, new research published today predicts.

According to the most recent government figures, life expectancy at birth in the United States is 76.3 years for men and 81.2 years for women.

Using a number of forecasting models, researchers from the U.K. predict life expectancy in the U.S. will improve to 83.3 years for women and 79.5 years for men by the year 2030.

But despite these modest gains, the United States is still lagging behind other developed countries.

“The USA has the highest child and maternal mortality, homicide rate, and body-mass index of any high-income country, and was the first of high-income countries to experience a halt or possibly reversal of increase in height in adulthood, which is associated with higher longevity,” the authors write. –CBS News

The scholarly study is here in The Lancet.

“North Korea demands ‘sinister’ Malaysia stop investigating Kim Jong-nam death”  (The Guardian)

North Korea has lashed out at Malaysia over the death of Kim Jong-nam, accusing it of having a “sinister purpose” and collaborating with South Korea, which has said Pyongyang agents assassinated Kim Jong-un’s half-brother. –The Guardian

Comment: Taking such enormous risks to kill a family member (in a culture that reveres family ties) and a person under Chinese protection (when that is your country’s only international supporter) indicates how unstable the North Korean regime must be.

 

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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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