ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 5

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

◆ We continue to learn more about Las Vegas shooting but still don’t know motive

Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the shooter also hit aviation fuel tanks. Two bullets hit the tanks at the nearby airport, one penetrating the tank. No fire.

The gunman also rented rooms overlooking other outdoor music festivals, including one in Chicago, but did not occupy those rooms.

Comment: If he fired only twice at the fuel tanks, then they were not a major target. Still, the fact that one bullet penetrated the tanks and could have caused a conflagration is deeply disturbing.

We don’t know if the fact that the gunman did not attack the other venues he scouted indicates only his methodical preparation or something about his motivation to attack one kind of concert-goer and not another. For example, one concert had rap-music stars so an attack would have immediately focused on racist motives. Perhaps he did not want such speculation. In any event, we simply don’t know the answers yet and may never know them.

Las Vegas sheriff says the killer led a ‘secret life’ before attack and had “some help at some point” in pulling off Sunday’s massacre (Fox News)

Mia Bloom, a prominent scholar working on terrorism, makes two important points. First, the girlfriend’s cooperation indicates she was never part of the conspiracy; in cases where the girlfriends did know, they refused to cooperate. Second, she sees no evidence of ISIS involvement at this point, only wannabe credit.

Comment: I know Prof. Bloom and take her judgments very seriously.

 “Bump stocks” 

Bump stocks are off-the-shelf kits to convert semi-automatic weapons, which can be purchased legally, into fully-automatic weapons, which cannot.

Here is the New York Times useful description:

Twelve of the rifles the gunman in the Las Vegas mass shooting had in his 32nd-floor hotel room were each modified with a “bump stock,” an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster.

The device replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires. The stock “bumps” back and forth between the shooter’s shoulder and trigger finger. –NYT

Analysis:

  • Illegal: A machine-gun (fully-automatic)
  • Legal: Semi-Automatic
  • Legal: Bump stock to convert semi- into machine-gun
  • Hence, you can legally (and easily) create a weapon that is illegal to purchase

Why are bump-stocks legal? Because the ATF rules that bump stocks were legal under current law. The ruling came during the Obama Administration so it was not the result of White House pressure.

Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is leading a Congressional effort to make sales of bump-stocks illegal. His effort has bipartisan support–even pro-gun Congressmen say they are willing to have a discussion. We don’t yet know the depth of that support. (Washington Post article here.)

Breaking news: NRA supports “regulations” on bump stocks (Washington Times)

Unclear if they intend to support a complete ban.

Comment: One of the most depressing things I have heard in this whole shocking affair was Kinzinger saying that the ATF should simply change its ruling because that would be faster than passing a law.

Speed in changing this rule is very important–and may be decisive in this case.

Still, it was depressing to hear an elected US official saying that a bureaucracy, not Congress, should act on what should be enacted by law.

San Juan mayor, in a fight with Trump, dons ‘nasty’ shirt for TV interview (Fox News)

 

Comment: And she picked a really tough interviewer, as you can see.

Carmen Yulin Cruz has decided her political future is better by “going big” in her fight with Trump. It will build support for her on the island, at least initially, and divert attention from her own inept performance.

Anybody–anybody at all–think Trump will quietly ignore this?

 

 

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ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 3: News beyond the Las Vegas tragedy

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

◆ The devastating news from Las Vegas has rightly dominated coverage.
In the process, other stories can be lost. Today’s ZipDialog will concentrate on them.

Here’s a huge story that has received virtually no attention

US Manufacturing expands at fastest pace in 13 years (Bloomberg)

The details are in a report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). Readings above 50 indicate expansion

⇒ Factory index climbed to 60.8 (est. 58.1), the highest since May 2004, from 58.8
⇒ Measure of new orders increased to 64.6, the strongest since February, from 60.3
⇒ Employment gauge rose to 60.3, the best reading in more than six years, from 59.9
⇒ Index of prices paid advanced to 71.5, the highest since May 2011, from 62 –ISM via Bloomberg

The growth was spread across all sectors. Of the 18 industrial sectors reporting to ISM, 17 reported expansion. Only furniture making contracted.

 Why disaster relief has lagged in Puerto Rico

Virtually all levels of government performed poorly.

  • The White House was slow to waive an old law preventing non-US ships from carrying supplies from mainland ports to the island. That waiver was finally given but it should have been done immediately.
  • FEMA, which has a division tasked with the Caribbean, failed to pre-position vital supplies, especially fuel for electric generators.
    • When the storm hit and knocked out electric wires, many essential facilities turned to their backup power generators. They soon ran out of fuel. If they were in Florida or Texas, then tanker trucks could come quickly with more fuel. In PR, though, the fuel needs to be pre-positioned.
  • Local officials were woefully unprepared–and, in many cases, utterly incompetent. They, too, did no advance work, even though they live in a hurricane zone.

The one piece of good news is that relatively few people died, given the scale of the damage. (Btw, most of the damage was related to wind, not flooding.)

The next problem is even more serious: long-term rebuilding. The island has been badly mismanaged, and so has its capital city. Since all disaster rebuilding involves a big local effort–physically and fiscally–expect trouble here, too.

Comment: Trump’s visit today was simply public relations. Naturally, the Washington Post hated it.

 Catalonia: Spain’s king calls the independence vote illegal (Washington Post)

The vote was overwhelmingly for independence.

Spain’s firm, sometimes violent, crackdown on the vote prompted a general strike today in Barcelona and has fueled support for separatism.

Comment: The vote was a stunt, but the sentiment is real and poses yet another challenge to the creaky European Union structure.

The EU would like to cool tensions with North Korea but Pyongyang sends only mid-level officials to diplomatic meetings (Reuters)

In the past, they sent higher level officials.

Comment: North Korea is sending a message: we don’t want talks. You cannot bend our arms–or our minds.

◆ More Jew-hatred by Students for Justice in Palestine

SJP does this regularly on many campuses, combining loathing for Israel and for Jews. Its latest tactic is to call Jews and Israel “white supremacists” and, of course, “racist, colonialist, homophobic” and all the other epithets in the “victim basket.”

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East explains:

At the University of Illinois, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter held a “Smash Fascism” rally on campus that announced there was “no room for fascists, white supremacists, or Zionists at UIUC.” Advertising for the event stated that the “confluence of fascism and Zionism is becoming more obvious by the day” and that “two forms of racial supremacy merge seamlessly together, the Palestinian struggle for human rights and dignity can set the model for discursive changes.”

The statement also noted “violent resistance, whether it is a black bloc or full-scale armed conflict, also has its place.” During the protest itself participants yelled “no justice! No peace! No war in the Middle East! No Zionists, no KKK, resisting fascists all the way” and “no Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.!”

In partial response, the university chancellor issued a statement which stated that “Painted swastikas, chalked epithets on sidewalks, KKK costumes and anti-Semitic attacks hidden under the guise of anti-Zionist rhetoric are all too common” and that “Bigotry, racism and hate will never be tolerated here at Illinois.” –Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Similar slanders have been spread recently at NYU and Tufts.

Their familiar chant, “Palestine must be free, from the [Jordan] River to the Sea,” implies that Israel should be wiped off the earth completely.

Comment: The radical Palestinians use a well-known propaganda tactic:

Everybody hates X (e.g. Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan)”

The trick, then, is to liken your political opponent (Trump, Hillary, Mexicans, Jews, whoever) to X

So, the propagandists say “Group Y is just like the awful Group X, which we all hate.” “And Group Z is just like the awful Group X.”

Therefore, “Groups X, Y, and Z are all alike, and we should all hate them.

One aspect of this propaganda campaign is to keep all the “victims groups” together. If Victims Group P (Palestinians) hate Israel, and Victims Groups G (Gays) hate Homophobes, then the Palestinians and Gays will say that they both hate Israel and Homophobes–and then go one step further and say that “Israel is homophobic” and “Homophobes are pro-Israel.” Ludicrous, of course, but commonplace on campus. Since Palestinians are part of a victims coalition with blacks and gays, they will say that Israel and pro-Israel students must be “white supremacists” (and thus opposed to blacks in the coalition) and homophobic (thus opposed to gays in the coalition). These false and defamatory tactics are standard propaganda techniques, used for years for dictatorial regimes. Seeing them used on college campuses is deeply disturbing.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, September 21

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

◆ Puerto Rico: direct hit by Cat 4 hurricane. Massive damage, whole Island without power

An overview of the impact (New York Times)  

The NYT is providing live updates here.

Mexico’s massive 7.1 earthquake. Death total already 245, likely to rise  (Washington Post)

The saddest stories are coming from K-12 schools, where parents await the fate of children. A lot of interest is focused on one hope story of a child trapped alive.

 As the Democratic party shifts left and makes Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare a vital issue, centrist Dems face 2018 problems (Fox News)

If Democrats in purple or red states go with single-payer, they will pay the price in the general election.

If they reject it, though, they could face a primary opponent from the left (mirroring the Tea Party attacks on centrist Republicans).

Comment: There is one piece of good news for Democrats, however. Their general election opponents are Republicans, who have a woeful record on Capitol Hill this session.

Big Deal: Chinese banks reportedly cut ties to North Korea (Fox News)

This is huge since China is the conduit for all North Korea’s international trade.

The bad news is that South Korea is providing a small “humanitarian” gift to North Korea at the same time.

Comment: Good as humanitarian aid sounds, it always gives leverage to dictatorships, which use the money for themselves and their favorites.

I assume that North Korea will turn to Russia and Iran for financing, but they would face financial peril themselves if they provide it.

Trump praises China’s new sanctions against North Korea and ratchets up US sanctions (CNN)

Comment: The US measures show it has not run out of “non-kinetic” options.

China’s measures show both that it is frustrated with North Korea’s reckless, autonomous actions and that it fears what the US might do.

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ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 12

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

 Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wants the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate when Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, provided cover for the Hillary Clinton campaign, telling FBI director Comey to say, falsely, that their criminal investigation of Hillary’s email server was merely a “matter,” not an investigation.

It was a direct order to him, Comey testified. (Politico)

Feinstein made her statement on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Comment: Lynch’s conduct looks questionable and does deserve investigation.

Meet with Bill on the tarmac and get covered in tar yourself.

 Democratic Party: Split between establishment liberal leadership and activist-left base  (New York Times)

Democrats are facing a widening breach in their party, as liberal activists dream of transforming the health care system and impeaching President Trump, while candidates in hard-fought elections ask wary voters merely for a fresh chance at governing.

The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend. In Chicago, Senator Bernie Sanders led a revival-style meeting of his progressive devotees, while in Atlanta, Democrats made a final push to seize a traditionally Republican congressional district. –New York Times

Comment: The Republicans have faced the same internal split, in their case between establishment leaders who want to govern and Tea Party/Freedom Caucus activists who want to roll back big government.

To me, these internal splits represent the electorate’s deep distrust of insiders and their self-dealing and an erosion of the party system itself.

 Pakistani terrorism court sentences man to to death for allegedly “insulting” Mohammed on Facebook  (Fox News)

The man, Taimoor Raza, is from the minority Shiite sect and was initially charged with a lesser offense.

Raza’s verdict comes at a time when officials are increasingly pounding down on blasphemy claims across the country. At least 15 Pakistanis are said to have been arrested by the counterterrorism department under the umbrella of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Four other people were sentenced to death for the crime in 2016 alone. . . .

Scores of others in Pakistan remain on death row for alleged blasphemy, including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who remains in solitary confinement after being convicted in 2010 following a debate with two Muslim women in a Punjab village.–Fox News

Comment: The obvious point is that Pakistan is a deeply illiberal state. The less obvious point is that Europe, especially England, has admitted a lot of people from that country who have retained those beliefs, posing serious challenges to UK’s tradition of religious tolerance.

 Puerto Rico votes in favor of statehood (Associated Press)

Some boycotted the vote, which had a very low turnout.

Comment: Good luck with that, he said sardonically. The Republican Congress is not going to greenlight it.

 The University of Dallas: An impressive reading list if you want to catch up on truly great books.

The school is proudly Catholic but its reading list is largely non-sectarian. The section on theology naturally emphasizes Catholic documents, but also includes Luther. Neither he nor the Council of Trent would be pleased. And Calvin would not be happy, either.

The link to the readings is here; click on “A Selection of the Great Books.” The choices are excellent, and the initial suggestions are not an overly long list.

Comment: The University’s impressive curriculum, plus its commitment to seminar discussion, should allow students to explore serious subjects and gain a deep understanding of Western civilization and its values.

There is nothing wrong with critiquing that civilization, of course. Nothing at all. Lively criticism–and response–is an essential part of higher education.

But my sense is that far too many university students begin (and often end) their critique of everything that is wrong with America, Canada, and Europe without actually knowing anything about the traditions they have inherited, including the precious right to engage in this kind of free and open cultural self-criticism.

That right was hard won and, as we saw too often in the 20th century, easily lost, even in the heart of Europe.

 A liberal establishment power-lawyer in DC signed up to represent Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Her friends now think she’s pond scum (Washington Post story on Jamie Gorelick)

Some attack her publicly; others hide behind anonymity, proving the know what zip code they live in.

In a quintessentially D.C. move, some longtime friends of Gorelick contacted for this article offered complimentary comments about her on the record, and then, after asking if they could make other remarks without attribution, bashed their colleague to smithereens. –Washington Post

Comment: The issue here is not Jared and Ivanka. It is Gorelick’s Washington “friends,” who say one thing in public and another behind her back, under the cloak of anonymity, which the newspapers print freely.

Their behavior is capture in a quote attributed to Harry Truman: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

The attribution is probably incorrect.

But the sentiment is 100% correct.

The only discordant bark here is from my dog Lola, who says, for the record, “Do not bring me into this mess.”

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zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
Rod Dreher’s column, “Adult Seeks Classical Education”
 and to one of its commenters (Janine) for the University of Dallas story