ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, April 20

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

 Tillerson, Mattis turn up the heat on Iran. Says it is still sponsoring terrorism throughout the Middle East  (Washington Post)

But they do not want to overturn the nuclear agreement. They see cheating at the margins but not full-frontal violations

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis slammed Iran as a destabilizing influence, particularly in Yemen, during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “Everywhere you look, if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters.

This week, the Trump administration said it will undertake a comprehensive, 90-day review to judge whether lifting sanctions on Iran serves U.S. interests. So expect to hear more about this topic in the coming months.

In the meantime, amid all the criticism, here’s a development worth noting: Iran has met all of its commitments under the nuclear deal so far, the administration officially told Congress this week. –Washington Post

 The sheer fun of reading a slash-and-burn column. Not good as a steady diet, but, like cheese cake, great fun as an occasional treat.

Here’s Howie Carr’s take-down of Elizabeth Warren and her new book. The succession of nicknames alone is worth the read, and so is his parody of what she claims is her favorite curse word: poop. Really. That, she claims, is a f*^king curse word. (My own is “drat.”)  Howie’s column is here. (Boston Herald)

This is a rough week for Chief Spreading Bull to be starting her tour of the trustafarian gated communities and alt-left fake-news media that are her main, make that only, constituencies. The authors of the Hillary campaign post-mortem, “Shattered,” are also making the green-room rounds. Ditto Bernie Sanders and the DNC’s Dumb and Dumber — Tom Perez and Keith Ellison.

That’s a lot of poop for the non-working classes to be wading through, but nevertheless, she will persist. . . .

“Trump slammed back at me repeatedly,” she says on page 226, “hitting me over and over with his lame nicknames.”

Like, what, Liewatha? What kind of poop did he hit you with? Was it something about your, ahem, Native American heritage? Why no mention of that anymore? She’s still demanding that the president release his taxes. Maybe he should agree to — right about the time she puts out her employment applications to the two Ivy League law schools that hired her as a
“woman of color.” –Howie Carr

Comment: Cowabonga.

 Scott Walker continues policies opposing mandatory unions, this time on state construction projects (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Contractors won’t have to work with unions on taxpayer-funded building projects and parents will have an easier time getting an anti-seizure drug derived from marijuana, under legislation Gov. Scott Walker signed Monday.

The measure on labor agreements, which passed the Legislature on party-line votes, is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power by Republican lawmakers in recent years. –Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Comment: Wisconsin rises, Indiana Rises, Illinois sinks, California Sinks. Notice a pattern? Local voters do.

◆ Terror and the Fresno Murders: A comment 

Kori Ali Muhammad has admitted killing three people–he was caught in the act–and said he wanted to kill more “white people.”

Police has said that, although he yelled “Allahu Akbar,” his crime was based solely on race, not Islamic terror.

What he did IS terrorism, in the sense that he meant to cause terror and did.

The question is whether it is connected to the broader movement of Islamic terror, included “inspired” lone-wolf actions.

Right now, it is hard to know whether he yelled the Arabic phrase as

  • A signal of black nationalism (National of Islam style),
  • Pure hatred of America,
  • Support for global terrorism, or
  • Some other motive.

Since he has already begun talking, he might say more about his motivations. We’ll gain other information, too, as police uncover his internet search history, personal and political affiliations, and more.

As Fresno police and the FBI release their findings, we will gain a sense of how these murders are is connected to the larger Islamic terrorism issue, as well as Muhammad’s hatred of white people.

 Hillary campaign working to discover who leaked embarrassing info for new book, Shattered (NY Post’s Page Six)

We’re told the details in the book, which depicts the campaign as inept, “could only have come from someone in the inner circle.” Dennis Cheng, the finance director of Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been sending out messages to determine where the leaks come from.

One source said, “The knives are out to find the people who spoke about the campaign to the authors of this book. –NY Post

Comment: In other news, the Adlai Stevenson campaign is doing a “top-to-bottom look at why we lost and what to do next.”



zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Bryan Caisse 
for the Howie Carr piece on Elizabeth Warren


ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, April 17

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

 Turkey’s Erdogan claims he won a major national vote, giving him near-dictatorial powers. The opposition says “not so fast”  (Associated Press)

Comment: He has been accumulating power steadily and moving the country toward Islamism, rejecting the century-old secularist tradition of the country’s modern founder, Atatürk.

 How bad is Libya? Well, there are now slave markets there, according to the United Nations  (BBC)

Comment: Beyond the horrific human tragedy, there are other lessons for the US and Europe here. The biggest–and one we have had to learn repeatedly–is that it is far easier to knock down a regime, such as Muammar Gaddafi’s or Saddam Hussein’s, than it is to stand up a stable replacement.

 NYT calls North Korea a “Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion”

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the American position as Mr. Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with up to a thousand times the power than the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far. –New York Times

Comment: The NYT headline is insightful, highlighting the dangers ZipDialog has long stressed.

But there are two crucial differences worth pondering. First, in October 1962, the US was dealing with a rational rival. Now, we’re not sure. Second, in 1962, we dealt with Russia, which had complete control over the nuclear weapons, which were theirs, after all. Now, we are dealing with North Korea and its own arsenal. Beijing has tremendous leverage, but it ultimately has to get Pyongyang to act. Moscow didn’t have that problem with Havana.

Related story: Vice President Pence, visiting South Korea, tells North Korea not to test US resolve. (Washington Post)

 “Against all odds,” says the WaPo, “a communist soars in French election polls”

[Jean-Luc] Mélenchon is running as the candidate of the Unbowed France political movement, in an alliance with the French Communist Party. The latest polls show him narrowly trailing Emmanuel Macron, long seen as the favorite, and Le Pen, expected to qualify for the final round of the two-round vote but to lose to Macron in the end. In the final days of a truly unprecedented campaign, Mélenchon’s unexpected surge is a reminder that radical change is in the air and that its extremist apostles — on the right or the left — may soon hold power. –Washington Post

Comment: Who knows which two candidates will make the runoff? But the strong showing of an extreme left and an extreme right candidate are deeply disturbing. Trouble for markets, the EU, and, most of all, stable democracies in a stable Europe. Time for paintings from Weimar?

 Shameful NYT headline on a story that has NOTHING to do with Justice Neil Gorsuch:

Why Gorsuch May Not Be So Genteel on the Bench

The only connection between the story and Gorsuch is that he is male and conservative, and a recent study deals with conservative males on the Supreme Court before Gorsuch.

Comment: The Times reports on a forthcoming law review article that says male SCOTUS justices interrupt more often than female justices and that conservatives interrupt more often than liberals. That may or may not interest you. For me, it ranks #1257 on my list of important public issues. Perhaps it ranks higher for you. 

The problem here is that the academic has nothing, zero, nada, zip, bupkes to do with new Justice Neil Gorsuch. The NYT just wanted a current news hook and was delighted to smear Gorsuch in the process.

Nice work, Times, and special kudos to the reporter, Adam Liptak, whose sleazy hook should earn him extra dinner invitations in Georgetown and the Upper West Side.




ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, April 16

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

 North Korea: no nuclear test (yet), failed missile test on day of big celebration  No comment from Trump or top aides. (Washington Post)

Comment: We don’t know if North Korea simply wasn’t ready for its next nuclear test or was pressured by China. Either way, expect Kim Jong Un to continue pushing the envelope in dangerous ways. 

 Sec. of State Rex Tillerson’s stock is high and rising inside the White House. Outsiders have simply missed it  (Politico)

Tillerson has far more White House visits than other Cabinet members, as well as weekly private dinners with Trump.

Politico says Trump admires Tillerson’s skills in managing large organizations (he was superb at Exxon), and that Trump thinks, as executives do, in terms of quarterly results. And Tillerson is finishing the quarter strong, with his guidance on Syria, Iraq, and Russia.

The American Interest has a related article on Tillerson’s rise in what they call “Donald Trump’s Transactional Diplomacy.”

 Him no talk. Elizabeth Warren whines that Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to speak to her  (Washington Examiner)

Comment: Warren, you might remember, refused to shake hands with Judge Gorsuch and led the opposition to fellow Senator Jeff Sessions’ successful nomination to become Attorney General.

 Julian Assange grumpy with CIA after its head calls WikiLeaks “a non-state hostile intelligence service” (Fox News)

Assange says CIA Director Mike Pompeo is trying to “subvert” his “First Amendment Rights.”

Quick Tip to Assange: Non-US citizens living in London do not have First Amendment Rights. Try a different gambit.





ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, March 16

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

 Diplomacy with North Korea is a failed strategy, Rex Tillerson, US Sec. of State says in Asia  (Washington Post)

It’s time to take a “different approach” to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Tokyo on Thursday, because 20 years of diplomacy had “failed” to convince the regime in Pyongyang to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Tillerson’s comments will fuel fears in the region that military options might be on the table to deter North Korea — an approach that could prove devastating for Seoul, where more than 20 million people live within North Korean artillery range. –Washington Post

Comment: By far the most dangerous region in today’s world. Tillerson’s message is also aimed at China, since US diplomacy has focused in vain on getting China to use its leverage with North Korea.

 Rachel Maddow: People disappointed by Trump story expected too much (Washington Post)

The NY Post says parent NBC is none-too-happy with this whiff either.

Comment: Gee, wonder who hyped it for 20 minutes at the start of her own show (I watched so you didn’t have to). By then, she already knew the hype was false. 

People have compared it to Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s vault and finding nothing. The difference is that Geraldo didn’t already know the vault was empty.

 Kremlin spies orchestrated huge Yahoo! hack, according to US indictment (New York Times)

If true, the allegations offer an extraordinary case study of Russian cyber espionage, and particularly the symbiotic relationship between identity thieves and spammers and Russia’s elite intelligence services.

Cybersecurity experts and the F.B.I. have long suspected that Russian spies employed and protected criminal hackers to a striking degree, but evidence has been scarce. The indictment made public on Wednesday describes this collusion in detail for the first time.

The Washington Post thinks the indictment and investigation could shed light on other hacks.

 When the US spies on foreigners, it sometimes picks up Americans’ communications. It is supposed to “mask them” to cover up their identities. It appears the Obama White House asked for some of those masked names. Now, Congress wants to know who asked and whether they received the answers (CNN) The request is bipartisan.

The leaders of the House Intelligence Committee asked the three leaders of the intelligence community Wednesday about any time during the last seven months of the Obama administration whenever any of its agents and officials improperly named, or “unmasked,” and disseminated the identities of American citizens picked up in intelligence collection.

Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, wrote that they were concerned that members of the intelligence community have not been sufficiently honoring previously established “robust ‘minimization procedures'” to protect the identities of US citizens, including “masking” their names. The letter they sent refers to the disclosure to the public that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had several conversations with the Russian Ambassador. –CNN

Comment: If White House aides asked for unmasking, they could well be investigated criminally for the subsequent leaks.

 Tesla raises $1.5 billion as it begins testing its much-anticipated, high-volume Model 3  (Daily Mail)

Comment: A lot hinges on the success of the mass-market Model 3 if Tesla is to move beyond its high-end niche.



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.




ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Thursday, February 16

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

 Trump’s Budget Chief finally Approved; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) has been a Tea Party favorite  (Washington Post)

Comment: His position is a hot seat and will be difficult for him to manage politically. The difficulty, fundamentally, is that Trump’s spending and tax-cutting plans and his refusal to tackle entitlements are very different from the Tea Party’s and the House Freedom Caucus. Mulvaney will not only have to reconcile those vast differences, he will have to convince some of his former colleagues in the House–or be read out of their church.

 Alexander Acosta, nominated as Labor Sec. He is an experienced lawyer, who served in several positions in GW Bush administration, including National Labor Relations Board, and is chairman of a Hispanic community bank in Florida (Fox)

Comment: Presumably better vetted than Andrew Puzder, who withdrew his nomination, and should be a straightforward approval. That won’t stop Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats from slow-walking it. Vetting is fine. Slow walking is just gamesmanship.

 US Sec. of State Rex Tillerson meets his Russian counterpart. So far, no real news about what has become an increasingly conflictual relationship (New York Times)

 US Sec. of Defense reassures NATO that it will not cozy up to Russia No closer military ties between US-Russia, Mattis says  (New York Times)

 Senate to grill Trump’s nominee for US Ambassador to Israel  (CNN)

Comment: David Friedman has supported settlements so he is reviled by the left. The Democrats will focus on Trump’s “abandonment of the two-state solution.” But that’s misleading. What Trump really did was say, correctly, the parties themselves have to strike a mutually-acceptable deal. We (the US) won’t constrain that. Smart, as a negotiating tactic.

Of course, there will be no agreement because

  • The Palestinians do not have stable governance
  • One of their territories is rules by corrupt terrorists, the other by dead-ender terrorists, part of a larger Muslim Brotherhood movement, bent on overthrowing regimes across the Arab-Muslim world; and
  • The Palestinian people have not even begun to discuss the nature of the compromises that would be essential in a peace treaty. The Israelis did discuss those issues and were ready for compromise during the Clinton Administration.

They have now given up on that possibility and are reluctantly moving forward to preserve their security without much cooperation from the Palestinians.




ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Saturday, February 11

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

 Trump rejects Tillerson’s choice for No. 2 at State, Elliott Abrams  Tillerson wanted Abrams, an experienced strategist who had served in the Reagan Administration and in a more senior position under George W. Bush. Abrams had attracted opposition from both left (predictably) and some on the right for too close to neoconservatives and interventionists. (New York Times)

Mr. Trump had a productive meeting with Mr. Abrams on Tuesday, according to a White House official and a person close to Mr. Abrams. But after it took place, Mr. Trump learned of Mr. Abrams’s pointed criticisms of the president when he was running for president, the administration official said. Among those criticisms was a column headlined “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate,” which appeared in May 2016 in The Weekly Standard.  –New York Times

Comment: Trump’s decision appears to be based on personal pique and disloyalty, not policy issues, but we will learn more over the next few days.

 Newly-confirmed Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos physically blocked from entering Washington, DC, elementary school (WJLA, ABC7)

The Washington Teacher’s Union organized a gathering outside of the school, but were not among the protesters who blocked her. –WJLA

She eventually made it into the school.

Comment: The Teacher’s Union peaceful protests are fully protected by the First Amendment. They are fine, whether you agree with their viewpoint or not. By contrast, the others, who tried to block DeVos entry and enter her car, deserve full-throated condemnation.

 Trump has very positive meeting with Japanese PM Abe, says US committed to defense of Japan (Reuters via CNBC) The US defense commitment represents a significant change from Trump’s rhetoric as a candidate

At the same time, Pres. Trump had a positive phone call with China’s leader, Xi, reaffirming Washington’s traditional “one-China” policy.

Comment: These are significant, positive steps to stabilize both deterrence (protecting Japan) and diplomacy (discussions with China).

 Michael Barone is worried–and for good reason–that liberals are not condemning street violence in the US

The response of liberal politicians? So far as I know, there has been almost none. At the Powerline blog John Hinderaker links to a Grabien video showing Democratic politicians and celebrities making statements that some may take as endorsements of violence, such as Sen. Tim Kaine’s urging followers to “fight in the streets.” I suspect he would claim that he was speaking metaphorically and only urging peaceful protest. But it would be nice if he could find time to condemn the violence we have seen at Berkeley — and which is increasingly unsurprising on our college and university campuses, which have become the part of our society most hostile to free speech. Michael Barone on Berkeley riots in the Washington Examiner

Comment: My answer to Barone’s question: Liberal politicians probably do care, but they care more about their political standing. That means they do not want to alienate the highly-mobilized left, much of which supports the violence or is simply too cowardly to speak out again it.

 To help build its self-driving cars, Ford spends $1 Billion to buy majority stake in Silicon Valley startup (Detroit Free Press)

Comment: Ford is buying the expertise of Argo AI’s founders and their robotics expertise. Ford has already made considerable progress on its “virtual driver system”



Trump Reorganizes His National Security Council . . . Badly

This was the lead item in ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, but it has received so much attention that I want to post it separately, with some additional commentary. –Charles Lipson

◆ 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 if 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.

I had always anticipated the first big national-security fight within the Trump team would pit Mattis and Tillerson against Flynn. That may be shaping up earlier than I had anticipated, with Bannon on Flynn’s side.

(Charles Lipson commentary)   


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.






ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Friday, January 26

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

 Four top State Department officials, all political appointees, fired (NBC) New administration will appoint its own people.

Comment: Lots of my friends, who know a great deal about foreign affairs, are deeply concern about the resulting loss of experience. I am not.

Although I have many concerns about Trump’s foreign policy, reorganizing the State Department is not among them. First, these were political appointees, even though they had begun as foreign service officers. A new administration has every right to bring in its own people in top positions. Second, I have real concerns about several of these fired employees, some of whom were enmeshed in Hillary’s email scandals and other policy fiascos. Third, if there is one thing Rex Tillerson, the next Sec. of State knows, it is how to build and control a bureaucracy.

Bottom line: I am concerned about US policies and several of Trump’s major initiatives, but cleaning house in Foggy Bottom is good news, not bad.

 British Prime Minister Theresa May to meet with Trump on Friday (BBC) The meeting follows May’s very positive speech in Philadelphia urging a renewal of the “special relationship” between the US and UK.

Comment: Theresa May has proved herself very adroit so far and willing to listen to voters. She opposed Brexit, but, after it was approved by the voters and she entered office (replacing David Cameron), she has moved strongly to implement it. In short, she listens to voters. Second, as Britain leaves the European Union, it needs to renegotiate all its trade treaties (since they are now done through the EU). A strong trade relationship with the US is crucial.

 The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moves its Doomsday Clock closer to midnight “thanks to Trump” (Washington Post)

The full, thoughtful statement from the Bulletin’s scientists is here. They have now set the clock at 2 and 1/2 minutes til midnight.

 Google Pixel: onward and upward Pixel 2 said to be faster, stronger, water-resistant,says C|Net, and may be complemented by a new, budget version.

 This is news! Scientists say they have discovered how to put the flavor back in tomatoes  (Business Insider)

Comment: Today’s tomatoes have been bred for long shelf-life and long-distance transportation. They taste nothing like summertime tomatoes from the backyard. Any tech that can improve this unhappy result will be most welcome.

◆ Comment: The US-Mexico relationship is in deep trouble over two big issues, trade and immigration, and is likely to worsen as the rhetoric ramps up.

The US has tremendous negotiating leverage because Mexico depends on the US market for its goods. But pushing that advantage will surely bring anti-American politicians to the fore in Mexico, pushing left-wing populism. And it may become politically difficult for Mexico’s centrist leaders to push compromise solution.

In the US, the risk for Republicans is continued alienation of Hispanic voters, a growing segment of the population. Although they generally vote Democratic, some state parties, like Texas Republicans, have won significant Hispanic support and will be very edgy about a deteriorating relationship.