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 Roundup for Sunday, September 17

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

◆ The world’s leaders gather for annual UN General Assembly in NY

 USA Today headline captures some of the anxiety: “Trump treks to the United Nations to meet world leaders anxious about what he’ll say”

Comment: World leaders use the gathering for break-out meetings, one on one. There are several dangerous issues on the agenda, beginning with North Korea, but also including Iran, Russia, and, as the fighting in Syria ebbs, the return of many battle-hardened Islamic fighters to Europe.

British police have arrested second man in London tube bombing (CNN)

The arrests are part of a major manhunt for the perpetrators of Friday’s attack. Police had previously arrested an 18-year-old suspect in the departure area of the port of Dover on Saturday. Dover is major port town about 80 miles southeast of London. –CNN

Comment: One particularly sad part of this attack is that some of the suspects are Syrian refugees who were taken in by a well-meaning elderly couple in the London area, a couple honored by Queen for their humanitarian work. Their kindness appears to have been repaid by a vicious attack on the country that welcomed them.

Israel court rules ultra-orthodox must serve in military; they battle police in protest (Daily Mail)

The protest became violent when demonstrators blocked roads and resisted efforts to disperse them by riot police, mounted officers and water cannon.

“Eight rioters who used violence against police were arrested,” a police statement said in Hebrew. –Daily Mail

Basic background: The ultra-orthodox were originally a tiny fraction of the Israeli population and were given a special exemption from serving in the military (so they could study full-time). That exemption became increasingly controversial as the percentage of ultra-orthodox increased, mainly because of their higher birthrate.

 High-tech hatred: Google and Facebook allowed advertisers to target racists and anti-Semites by offering them keywords to target people making those noxious searches (Jerusalem Post)

The companies said they have now corrected those issues, but the paper’s check showed some still remain.

Comment: I’m sure this was an inadvertent error, inevitable when algorithms automatically generate millions of keywords. The firms have done the right thing in trying to correct it.

Those North Korean missiles. Looks like they received potent rocket fuel from Russia and China (New York Times)

According to US intelligence sources, it may be too late to stop the imports.

Meanwhile, America’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is saying the US has exhausted its diplomatic options with North Korea (Reuters)

Comment: She strongly implies that only military options are now left.

US may close embassy in Cuba over its sonic attacks on our diplomats (New York Times)

The Trump administration has already reversed crucial pieces of what President Trump has called a “terrible and misguided deal” with Cuba that was struck during the Obama administration, but closing the embassy would be the most dramatic action yet to return the relationship to its Cold War deep freeze. –New York Times

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 10

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

◆ How serious is the North Korean crisis?
Answer: Deadly serious
My column on the crisis appears today in Real Clear Politics (link here).

Washington Post headline: “Trump’s threat to North Korea contrasts with calm reassurances of other administration officials” (Washington Post)

Comment: No. It’s “good cop, bad cop.”

Trump and SecDef Mattis issue threats.

Meanwhile, Sec. of State Tillerson holds out hope for negotiations.

Although these differences could be seen as inconsistency or disarray, the more likely explanation is that the administration is holding out a hope for negotiations as the outcome of military threats.

Deportation orders up 30% under Trump (Fox News)

The president has vowed to speed deportations and cut down on the growing backlog of cases. He issued an executive order in January calling for a national crackdown.

After Trump issued the order, the Justice Department dispatched dozens of immigration judges to detention centers across the country and hired an additional 54 judges. The agency said it has continued to hire more immigration judges each month. –Fox News

Related story: Newspaper in El Salvador helpfully explains which 18 states illegal immigrants should avoid because “police agencies [in those states] are able to enforce immigration law.” (Daily Caller)

Manafort’s home is not his castle. FBI conducts pre-dawn raid (New York Times)

Why such an aggressive move against a white-collar suspect who is already cooperating? The NYT offers some ideas:

The search is a sign that the investigation into Mr. Manafort has broadened, and is the most significant public step investigators have taken since the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was appointed in May. Investigators are expected to deploy a wide array of similar measures — including interviews and subpoenas — in the coming months as they move forward with the intensifying inquiry. . . .

Legal experts said that Mr. Mueller might be trying to send a message to Mr. Manafort about the severity of the investigation, and to pressure him into cooperating. –New York Times

How nasty are the Cubans? Well, they planted sonic devices around the homes of US diplomats, causing them hearing losses (Miami Herald)

The use of sonic devices to intentionally harm diplomats would be unprecedented. –Miami Herald

This began in 2016, shortly after President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry opened relations with Cuba and proclaimed a new day in bilateral relations.

Comment: These physical attacks on US personnel were known to the Obama administration, though the specific causes were not known.

Pioneering type 1 diabetes therapy, using immunotherapy, is safe (BBC)

The disease is caused by the body destroying cells in the pancreas that control blood sugar levels. The immunotherapy – tested on 27 people in the UK – also showed signs of slowing the disease, but this needs confirming in larger trials. Experts said the advance could one day free people from daily injections.

Patients given the therapy did not need to increase their dose of insulin during the trial. However, it is too soon to say this therapy stops type 1 diabetes and larger clinical trials will be needed. And further types of immunotherapy that should deliver an even stronger reaction are already underway.–BBC

Comment: Promising but larger studies needed. Note that it slows the progression of the disease; it does not reverse it.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 17

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

 Sailors missing after US destroyer collides with container ship off Japan  (Washington Post)

The cause of the collision is not yet know. The US ship is not in danger of sinking but needs to be towed back to port. The container ship is safe, as well.

Comment: Somebody screwed up big-time.

 Obituary: Helmut Kohl, Chancellor who reunited Germany after fall of Berlin Wall (New York Times)

Comment: Kohl knew that integrating East Germany would be difficult and costly, but he also knew that the chance for a reunited Germany might not come again. With US support (from George H. W. Bush), he overcame behind-the-scenes objections from France and England. The US brushed aside Soviet objections to integrating all Germany in NATO. Actually, the Soviets were ambivalent because they did not want a rich, powerful, united Germany to have an independent military. In short, Kohl presided over a world-historical change.

 Lawsuit threatened to recover records Comey “unlawfully removed” from the FBI (Fox News)

Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply. –Fox News

Comment: To me, these records are unambiguously US public documents and ought to be returned and released unless they contain classified materials–in which case the FBI will simply leak them to the New York Times or Washington Post.

 Amazon to buy Whole Foods, which will continue to operate under its name  (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

Analysts said they expect Amazon eventually to use the stores to promote private-label products, integrate and grow its artificial-intelligence-powered Echo speakers, boost Prime membership and entice more customers into the fold. . . .

Whole Foods has come under fire as traditional grocers offer more natural and organic items, which are Whole Foods’ mainstay. Its shares had lost nearly half their value since a 2013 peak, and sales at stores open at least a year had slumped. –WSJ

Comment: I think the key here is going to be home delivery.

Amazon’s goal is to provide us every good and service without our leaving home.

 Speaker Paul Ryan: Stand back and let Robert Mueller do his job  (Washington Examiner)

Comment: He’s smart and Donald Trump would do well to follow it unless there is concrete evidence of malfeasance or vast overreach by Mueller’s office. That’s also Rod Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department

But there is a problem in the potential scope of Mueller’s inquiry, which blends counter-intelligence (no limits) with possible US criminal violations.

 Miami Herald: Trump’s new Cuba policy is too much for some, not enough for others  (Miami Herald)

Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased. –Miami Herald

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ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, March 14

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

 CBO projects Trump/Ryan Obamacare replacement would save money but that 24 million fewer people would be covered  (Washington Post)

The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year –Washington Post

 CBO ignites firestorm with ObamaCare repeal score, reports The Hill

Democrats highlighted President Trump’s campaign promises to provide “insurance for everybody,” saying the bill falls woefully short.

“The CBO’s estimate makes clear that TrumpCare will cause serious harm to millions of American families,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said in a statement. –The Hill

How does the CBO get these numbers?

The CBO estimated that 24 million people would become uninsured by 2026 under the bill, largely due to the proposed changes to Medicaid. Seven million fewer people would be insured through their employers over that same time frame because some people would choose not to get coverage and some employers would decline to offer it. –The Hill

Comment: The numbers create obvious political problems for Republicans, and the Democrats will exploit them.

Here is how I figure Republicans will respond, at least publicly:

  1. The basic problem with the CBO score is that it compares the new program to Obamacare, as if the ACA will continue to exist and cover people. But it won’t. Obamacare is collapsing financially, so those people will actually lose coverage if we don’t repeal it and replace it with something sustainable. Even if Obamacare totters on for another year or two, insurers are dropping out and, as they do, monopoly providers will raise rates, forcing more people off Obamacare insurance.
  2. CBO projections are often wrong, and they certainly have been about healthcare costs and coverage.
  3. Even if 24 million fewer are covered, some of them may choose not to buy coverage since, unlike Obamacare, it is not mandated.
  4. By law, the CBO can only score the bill in front of them. For technical reasons (related to Senate reconciliation rules), we cannot include key measures that will reduce insurance costs and thus attract some of those 24 million to purchase insurance. The main measure will be sale of insurance across state lines and, secondarily, reform of costly tort laws.

 A quote to celebrate spring training: Bob Uecker’s thoughts on catching Phil Niekro’s knuckleball:

The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling and then pick it up. –Bob Uecker

 The “progressive left” makes a regressive argument for stamping out speech…and they get to decide which speech.

Here’s Slate’s cover story:  “The Kids Are Right: There’s nothing outrageous about stamping out bigoted speech

Comment: The article is an artful scam, making its argument by allusion and demonization, without confronting serious counter-arguments.

It says some speech is bad and “informal rules” ought to limit it, without explaining who gets to set those rules and what criteria should be used. Then, it notes that our Constitution does permit some restrictions on speech. That’s right, but it is a good reason to say, “Let the First Amendment set the restrictions, not Slate magazine writers.”

The article goes on to attack Trump, Bannon (whom it explicitly calls racist), William Buckley (too religious), and others loathed by Slate readers.

It concludes, “The purveyors of logic, of facts dutifully checked and delivered to the public, lost big league in November.”

Why is that an argument for shouting down Charles Murray? It’s not. 

 Two airlines cancel routes to Cuba. Too little demand. Other airlines are cutting back flights and using smaller planes  (Miami Herald)

Comment: Fortunately, one airline is still flying to Cuba, and doing it on their terms.

 EU’s top court rules employers may prohibit staff from wearing visible religious symbols, such as Islamic headscarves, at work (Reuters)

 Democrats cannot figure out how–or whether–to oppose Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch (Politico)

Comment: He’ll win easily in the Senate and go onto the Court. The only question is how quickly Sen. leader McConnell will move.

 

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Ed Vidal
 for the airlines cancelling flights to Cuba and the story at Slate favoring speech suppression.

 

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, December 9

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

◆ Director makes film about Cuba’s intolerance toward gays. Cuba–shock, shock–refuses to allow it to at a film festival there. (AFP in Yahoo News)

“The film presents an image of the revolution that reduces it to an expression of intolerance and violence against culture and makes irresponsible use of our patriotic symbols and unacceptable references toward comrade Fidel,” said [Roberto] Smith — director of the all-powerful Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

Traditionally stigmatized in Cuba, homosexuality was fiercely repressed for many years under the communist regime, which interned gays in work camps in the 1960s and ostracized them in the 1970s. –AFP in Yahoo News

Personal note: One of my friends wrote me that his “cousin was expelled in the Mariel boat lift of 1980 for homosexuality.” Expelled from the country for his sexual orientation.

◆ John Glenn, a true American hero, remembered by his hometown paper, the Columbus Dispatch.

An authentic hero and genuine American icon, Glenn died this afternoon surrounded by family at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus after a remarkably healthy life spent almost from the cradle with Annie, his beloved wife of 73 years, who survives.

He, along with fellow aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright and moon-walker Neil Armstrong, truly made Ohio first in flight. –Columbus Dispatch

The picture here not as the distinguished Senator, not as the man who flew 149 combat missions in World War II and Korea (where his wingman was the greatest hitter in baseball, Ted Williams), but as the young man who, in February 1962, sat atop the Mercury launcher at Cape Canaveral, packed with one-quarter million pounds of rocket fuel, and became the first American to orbit earth. Rest in Peace.

◆ From the heights (John Glenn) to the depths (Harry Reid), who just completed his tenure in the Senate. “Harry Reid: A sculptor of partisanship, who was also molded by it” (Christian Science Monitor)

Comment: Reid was a noxious political figure, symbolized by his baseless attack on Mitt Romney, whom he tarred by saying “there were rumors” that Romney had not paid his taxes for a decade. That was untrue and, when Reid was asked later if he was sorry about it, said, “He lost, didn’t he?” His moral scruples summarized in four words.

◆ Trump’s controversial picks for Sec. of Labor and Environmental Protection are discussed at this ZipDialog post.

◆ South Korean parliament votes to impeach country’s president (Washington Post)

◆ New York Times runs characteristic article in news section, headlined “Trump Is Still Not Very Popular, and His Problem With Women Could Return.” The first subheader is perfect Times-think: “Hillary Clinton, out of the woods.” The article is here.

Comment: At the Times, the paper’s editorial opinions too often suffuse their presentation of “hard news.” Too often, too bad.

◆ Gregg Allman celebrates his 69th birthday. (JamBase) Just shows the lasting benefits of living a good, clean life. Here’s Gregg, his late brother, Duane, and their eponymous band, in “Tied to the Whipping Post.” This early version shows how they merged acid rock and blues (as Jimi Hendrix did in another way) to create something real, true, and original. The sequence of still photographs in this video capture the era.

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detective-cartoon-see-something-say-something-no-caption-201px

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

 

 

Metaphor!! Fidel’s funeral car breaks down, has to be pushed

◆ Fidel’s funeral procession sinks into a metaphor for Cuba’s economic funeral.

The Castro communist regime created this mess. And now they cannot even drive their old leader to his grave.

This is a real picture, a real story.

fidel-funeral-breakdown

◆ True believers probably look at his coffin and say, “He’s moving!”

 

♥ Hat Tip to
◆ William Easterly
 for this story

ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, November 26

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

◆ The death of Fidel Castro, at 90, will lead to retrospectives about the years when “national liberation movements” spread across Latin America and the decolonizing states of Africa and Asia, as well as the terrible weeks in October 1962, when the world hung in the nuclear balance. Castro was both a world-historical figure and a petty dictator who suppressed his people for decades. Retrospectives are welcome, but no warm glow should surround Castro and his suffocating regime. He did far too much damage for that.castro-and-khrushchev-poster

david-brooks-200px-no-margins◆ David Brooks has a valuable and balanced opinion piece: Fellow Trump Critics, Maybe Try a Little Listening (New York Times) His opening lines are worth pondering:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the best imaginable Trump voter. This is the Trump supporter who wasn’t motivated by racism or bigotry. This is the one who cringed every time Donald Trump did something cruel, vulgar or misogynistic.

But this voter needed somebody to change the systems that are failing her. She needed somebody to change the public school system that serves the suburban children of professors, journalists and lawyers but has left her kids under-skilled and underpaid. She needed some way to protect herself from the tech executives who give exciting speeches about disruption but don’t know anything about the people actually being disrupted. –David Brooks in the NYT

“In plain print,” a friend wrote me, “Mr. Brooks finally confirms what we all knew, his type in the media, government, business, politics, etc believe themselves to be morally superior, intellectually superior and simply ‘superior.’ ”

◆ As if to prove this point, here’s a column in the Huffington Post: Post-Truth Nation by Samuel C. Spitale 

trump-clinton-2016-200px-no-marginsTo put it simply, the only ones celebrating [Donald Trump’s] victory are the KKK, Russia, ISIS, and American conservatives. . . .

The truth is that Clinton is one of the most honest politicians in America, regardless of popular opinion.

By comparison, Donald Trump lies more than he tells the truth, regardless of whatever image he sells. –Samuel Spitale

oops-poster-250px-no-margins◆ Oops. Everybody makes mistakes. Some are more embarrassing than others. CNN’s local distributor in New Jersey accidentally aired 30 minutes of 30 minutes of hard-core, transsexual porn. (ZeroHedge) Read that again. Not a few minutes. 30 solid minutes. No one in the control booth noticed that their private stash must be on the public channels. And no one in New Jersey thought there was anything unusual. It gets better. The transsexual porn aired instead of . . . Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Really.

◆ “Trump eschews Ivy Leagues in favor of business acumen for cabinet,” says Fox News.

Comment on the type of people Trump is choosing: Fox is right about Trump. Let me add another point. The business acumen he likes is entrepreneurial, not corporate. He prefers wildcatters to “company men and women” who have risen through the ranks to head big corporate bureaucracies like P&G, Ford, or Exxon. His early appointments tilt toward self-made people with strong independent streaks and anti-establishment credentials and accomplishments–mostly business people but some politicians and generals with the same traits. They remind me of Ronald Reagan’s preferences. A final point: Trump’s selections, unlike those of Democratic administrations, are not all lawyers. 

jill-stein-w-caption◆ Green Party Candidate, Jill Stein, is fund-raising for Presidential-election recounts. She finished with slightly more votes than a middle-school lunch-room lady, but even that paltry total was enough to swing several states away from Hillary, assuming that Stein’s supporters would have voted and cast their ballots for Hillary if Stein had been crushed by a solar panel.

Slate, a reliable indicator of moderate leftist sentiments, says Democrats should not donate to Stein quixotic effort.

Comment: Jill Stein is a pox on the electoral system, better at raising funds than votes. She and her donors deserve each other.

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Joe Mahoney
 for the David Brooks column