ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 19

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

 Terror attack in London, killing and injuring Muslims as they left Ramadan prayers. We already know it was deliberate. We’ll know more soon about the motives. The initial indications are that the 48-year-old man wanted to kill Muslims as a hate crime. But, again, details are still sketchy.

Comment: The rise of political, religious, and ethnic hatred and killing because of that hatred is one of the most troubling developments in Europe and the US.

Democrats have no affirmative plans on health, so they turn to a familiar tactic: obstruct.

Democrats planning to slow GOP efforts to vote on ObamaCare by July 4 (Fox News)

Their complaint: the Republicans are drafting the bill behind closed doors and not allowing Democrats to participate.

Comment: They Democrats are understandably upset about being excluded. But no one on the Democratic side has said they would vote for any repeal-and-replace bill. They have said they will talk only if the R’s agree to tweak the ACA. Since the R’s are committed to replacing Obamacare, it’s hard to see why they would invite the fox into the hen house. 

◆ Washington Post editorial: “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag”

But the government’s price tag would be astonishing. When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed a “Medicare for all” health plan in his presidential campaign, the nonpartisan Urban Institute figured that it would raise government spending by $32 trillion over 10 years, requiring a tax increase so huge that even the democratic socialist Mr. Sanders did not propose anything close to it.

The goal still must be universal coverage and cost restraint. But no matter whether the government or some combination of parties is paying, that restraint will come slowly, with cuts to the rate of increase in medical costs that make the system more affordable over time. –Washington Post editorial

Comment: The standard solution to these high costs is to ration care. Typically, governments also impose cost controls which discourage innovation and channel potential doctors and nurses into other fields.

The fact that support for single-payer is now a litmus test for California Democrats is stunning. It would cost 2.5 times the current state budget.

 “Flounder” of Animal House has died Stephen Furst, who remained proud of his role as a hapless doofus, had heart problems brought on by diabetes.  He had other roles, but “Kent Dorfman” (Flounder) was his timeless one.

Comment: Flounder (the character’s name was Kent Dorfman) was less famous for the lines he said in Animal House than for something said to him. He was on the receiving end of the best advice every given by a college administrator, when Dean Vernon Wurmer told him, “Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is no way to go through life, son.” He concluded that scene famously by responding to Wurmer’s command, “Out with it.” 

He also played the central role in the “horse scene” (here). “I didn’t even point the gun at him!”

 Megyn Kelly and NBC “take the gloves off in Alex Jones interview–and now he’s mad” (Los Angeles Times)

Megyn Kelly presented a highly critical 19-minute piece on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine “Sunday Night” after a week of harsh criticism over the decision to present his views on network TV.

Jones is notorious for saying the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was staged to promote tougher gun control laws. Twenty-six people, including 20 children, died, making it the second-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history at the time. –LA Times

They even brought Tom Brokaw onto the show to say the grieving Newtown parents “should not have to hear the cruel claim that it’s a lie.”

Comment: Good point, Tom. But your bosses completely undercut it by giving a platform to the man who spread this “cruel claim that it’s a lie.”

Why did NBC do it? To sell viewers’ eyeballs to advertisers, of course.

Megyn Kelly and NBC made the despicable decision to climb into this ditch. They shouldn’t be surprised they got covered in mud.

◆ Good News: Cong. Steve Scalise’s condition upgraded to “serious” after the Virginia shooting (CNN)

Comment: Great news.




DNC asks EVERY STAFFER to resign

Tom Perez, new head of DNC, cleans house at the Democratic National Committee.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has launched a major overhaul of the party’s organization, which has been stung by recent crises — and the DNC has requested resignation letters from all current staffers. –NBC News

As for the dismissed employees . . . let’s just hope CNN and MSNBC are still hiring.

After all, top-flight journalists like Donna Brazile need meaningful work.


Bonus treat from dearly departed DNC employees: Donna Brazile denying that she received the debate questions in advance–something she later admitted, but only as an aside in an essay for Time magazine, mostly about how the Russians beat Hillary.

Here, though, Ms. Brazile says she is being “persecuted” as a “good Christian woman” because she was asked if she gave debate questions to Hillary.

Choice words, now that we know they were all false. Of course, she knew they were lies when she said them.


ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . .Wednesday, January 4

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

◆ Megyn’s Move: Variety, the show business paper, writes “NBC’s Big Bet on Megyn Kelly Comes with Big Risks” The upside is that she is a proven interviewer, willing to ask tough and interesting questions of anyone. The risks, according to Variety, are that daytime talk shows, which NBC envisions for Kelly, have failed many times with high-profile stars.

Comment: I would add one more risk. NBC think Kelly, who has cable’s second-highest rated show (behind O’Reilly), will bring over her more-conservative Fox viewers. I’m not so sure.

◆ Pizzas made by Robots? Reuters TV has a story about start-up that uses robots for the most repetitive parts of the process, humans for other parts. The Reuters reporter who shows the process, interviews the woman who runs the startup, and notes that the big pizza companies don’t want to do it yet. The reporter herself is pretty skeptical about the automation, wondering if it can handle a request for extra pepperoni.

Comment: The reporter may be right–for the moment–and the company premature. But the automation of fast-food service is coming and coming quickly. It won’t be long before a computer will be asking if you want a supersized drink with that.

◆ Lots of law school professors don’t want Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General. Over 1100 sent a letter to Congress explaining why. (Washington Post)

The law professors wrote that some of them have concerns about Sessions’s prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, his support for building a wall along the nation’s southern border and his “repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community.” –Washington Post

 An initial response to the professors comes from David French, writing at the National Review Online. He publishes their letter and then writes:

This isn’t an argument, it’s a regurgitation of Huffington Post headlines, and (shamefully, given that this is a law professors’ letter) they don’t even have the decency to note that Sessions’ vigorously disputes allegations of his racism, including allegations that he made racist statements. –David French at the National Review Online

◆ Trump’s Trade Negotiator. Nearing completion of his economic team, Pres-elect Trump nominates Robert Lighthizer to lead negotiations for better trade deals, a key part of Trump’s winning campaign. The New York Times calls Lighthizer “a Washington lawyer who has long advocated protectionist policies, the latest sign that Mr. Trump intends to fulfill his campaign promise to get tough with China, Mexico and other trading partners.”

◆ Rex Tillerson negotiates his departure from Exxon-Mobil. The Wall Street Journal estimates the retirement package at about $180 million.

◆ Better chips for Virtual Reality. CNET thinks Qualcomm’s new computer chips may finally get more consumers to try VR. The Snapdragon 835 will permit small, lighter, more powerful devices.



The personal side of public figures, as seen by Chicago writer Carol Felsenthal

Carol Felsenthal is one of Chicago’s most acute–and fiercely independent–political observers.

She’s written books on such diverse public figures as Bill Clinton (after his presidency), Katharine Graham, Si Newhouse, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and Phyllis Schlafly.  (Her books are here, at Amazon.) And she is a prolific writer of magazine profiles, many of them for Chicago Magazine.

Although Felsenthal typically writes about politicians and other public figures, what distinguishes her writing is her ability to probe behind the public persona and convey the real person, without cloying. She neither tosses softballs, like the old Barbara Walters interviews, nor beanballs, like Vanity Fair profiles.

phyllis-schlaly-300px-no-marginsHer analysis of Phyllis Schlafly–the political figure and the person–is an excellent example of a fair-minded portrait, and an instructive one for me.

When I think of Schlafly, I think first of her battle against the Equal Rights Amendment, her harsh, polarizing rhetoric and her brittle, almost-armored posture. But after Schlafly’s death, Carol drew on her multiple interviews and previous writing to convey a different picture of Schlafly among friends and family–a much warmer person that I had imagined, someone actually liked by many of her political adversaries.

⇒Felsenthal’s “The Phyllis Schlafly I Knew” was published by Chicago Magazine in September 2016 (link here).

Felsenthal’s recent articles range from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to revive his popularity to Megyn Kelly’s years as a young Chicago lawyer and singer Alicia Keys’ pledge not to wear make-up. (all at Chicago Magazine) Some, like the article on Rahm, are political. Others, like the one on Alicia Keys, are more personal, using the star’s decision as a springboard to discuss how women and girls choose to present themselves to the world, including Felsenthal’s own memories of being “an unruly-haired redhead with the pale, heavily freckled complexion to go with it.” makeup-table-201px-no-margins

The subject matter varies widely. What remains consistent are the sensibility, fluid style, and close observation of the author.