The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Air Date: 
July 25, 2017

Photo: Joe Rago, exceptional researcher and writer, and splendid friend, who left us last week at the age of only thirty-four.  See encomia below.
Co-host: Larry Kudlow, The Kudlow Report, CNBC; and Cumulus Media radio
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Joseph Rago, Wall Street Journal Editorial Writer, Dies at 34   Pulitzer Prize winner was known for his well-reported pieces and policy influence; By Jennifer Levitz <>
Joseph Rago, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal who was known for his richly reported pieces and influence on policy makers, was found dead Thursday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 34 years old.
The New York Police Department found Mr. Rago dead in his apartment at 7:40 p.m., according to a police official. The authorities went to check on Mr. Rago after he didn’t show up for work on Thursday. Paul Gigot, the editor of the Journal’s editorial page, had alerted the paper’s security officials, who then contacted the police.
Mr. Rago was found with no obvious signs of trauma and emergency responders declared him dead at the scene, the police said. The cause of death was being determined by the medical examiner on Friday.
“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the death of Joseph Rago, a splendid journalist and beloved friend,” Mr. Gigot said in a statement. “Joe and his family are in our thoughts and prayers, and we will be celebrating his work in Saturday’s paper.”
Mr. Rago made his biggest mark writing about health care. In 2011, he captured the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing for what the Pulitzer organization called his “well crafted, against-the-grain editorials challenging the health care reform advocated by President Obama.”
“No matter where you fall in the debate of health care reform, the arguments advanced by Joseph Rago in his series of editorials in The Wall Street Journal were impossible to ignore,” the judges wrote. “Not paying attention to these editorials was not an option for policymakers.”
Mr. Rago gained credibility with the policy community and with politicians because he did his homework, becoming one of the most well-sourced people around on health care, with sources throughout Washington and among academics on the left and right, Mr. Gigot said in an interview on Friday.
“Through his editorials, he had enormous impact on events in Washington,” he said.
The last editorial Mr. Rago wrote, on Wednesday, was entitled “The ObamaCare Republicans,” Mr. Gigot said.  After coming to the Journal as a summer intern in 2005, Mr. Rago stood out for his thoughtful reporting and flair for prose. “I immediately hired him,” Mr. Gigot said. “He was just too good not to hire.”
Mr. Rago rose from an assistant editor on the op-ed page to editorial writer to a member of the editorial board. Friends and colleagues say he was modest and serious, but with a sardonic sense of humor that made him a pleasure to be around.
“He was the kind of person you liked to have a beer with—I know that’s a cliché, but it’s actually true,” Mr. Gigot said.
Along with health care, Mr. Rago’s topics ranged from energy regulation to antitrust issues to the debate between privacy and national security. He was the Journal’s main editorial writer during the 2016 presidential campaign and did interviews with many of the candidates as well as filed colorful opinion pieces from the campaign trail.
A native of Falmouth, Mass., Mr. Rago graduated with a degree in history from Dartmouth College in 2005. While there, he was a member of the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity and wrote for the Dartmouth Review, an independent conservative student newspaper. He served on the paper’s board of directors at the time of his death.
He remained active with the campus and in a 2011 videotaped interview there said he tried to stay in touch with students from all over the country and offer his advice.
“Journalism is a hard field to get into, and I caught a break and try to help other people,” he said.
In an interview, Peter Robinson, a former speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said that attitude was typical of Mr. Rago, a longtime friend and 2010 media fellow at Hoover.
“Joe was an intellectual fighter but there was also just a wonderful sweetness about him,” he said.
He praised Mr. Rago’s rigorous approach to opinion writing, saying Mr. Rago always presented the information readers needed to have to assess his conclusions.
“That’s very rare,” Mr. Robinson said. “Joe was never just mouthing off. He was doing the hard work of real journalism.”
Correction: Joseph Rago was a member of the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity at Dartmouth College.
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A Tribute to The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Rago
Joe Rago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal writer who died last week at the too-young age of 34, used his ample talents to rouse readers and policy-makers alike.
By Christopher Jacobs   JULY 24, 2017
As someone who makes his living as a writer, working to influence and persuade others, I’ve often aspired to the description of the Suffering Servant depicted in Isaiah: “The Lord God hath given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” The Lord certainly gave Joe Rago, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal writer who died last week at the too-young age of 34, a well-trained tongue, and he used his ample talents to rouse readers and policy-makers alike.
As a writer for the Journal’s editorial page, who spearheaded the paper’s editorial coverage of Obamacare and health care, Joe excelled at a medium requiring precision and discipline. While the Internet permits discursive, even plodding, analysis, the space limitations of an editorial page necessitate crisp, clear prose.
Joe’s great skill lay in his ability to weave developments—a government report here, a congressional hearing there—into a coherent yet concise narrative explaining and persuading readers on an issue. It was a skill honed by years as a writer and editor, one I wish I had.
Rago leavened his writing with facts and arguments gleaned through his innate curiosity. He spent time cultivating sources—on Capitol Hill and elsewhere—traveling to Washington frequently during the health care debate, and asking questions everywhere along the way. In discussing a recent op-ed of mine in the Journal, Joe initially thought he hadn’t seen it, then proceeded to repeat the piece’s argument back to me. He allowed that he probably had “absorbed the argument by osmosis”—an apt description of his prodigious reading and research.
Seriousness for Serious Matters, Levity for Others
In his writing, as in his life, Joe Rago coupled wisdom with a wit demonstrating his detached bemusement at the human condition. Seeing the daily protests outside his office—home to both the Journal and Fox News—since last November’s election brought a wry smile to his face. One day he pulled aside a protestor and asked for a stack of pamphlets by making an ironic claim: “I work in the building—I can help spread the word on the inside!” I hope his Journal co-workers, upon cleaning out Joe’s desk and discovering this stack of pamphlets condemning Fox News’ “fascism,” will remember fondly their late colleague’s impish sense of humor.
While Rago took politics and policy seriously, he never took anyone too seriously, least of all himself. As others have noted, the unsigned editorial format served Joe’s self-effacing personality perfectly. Modest and humble to a fault, he never bragged about his affiliations, or advertised his achievements—a Pulitzer before the age of 30 would give most people cause to brag, but not Joe. Even at a young age, he respected old-school journalistic traditions, respecting sources and confidences, and never making himself part of the story.
As single, 30-something conservatives who spent our time writing about health policy, Joe and I crossed paths on numerous occasions over the years. We debated politics and policy, often into the evening—for as Paul Gigot said, he was someone you could easily have a drink with. While it never came to anything, I still consider it an honor that Joe once suggested I join the Journal’s editorial team. If the measure of one’s life is the company one keeps, having someone like Joe consider you a potential colleague stands as high praise indeed.
Rest in Peace, Joe
I saw Joe Rago for the last time little more than a week before his death. We hadn’t chatted much since the presidential primaries began in earnest, and I used a work trip to New York to reach out so we could catch up. We spent several hours having dinner and drinks, and Joe was in good spirits, chatting with the bartender at his local hangout. We talked about the Obamacare debate, my transition to life as a consultant and entrepreneur, and his work at the Journal. (Joe had always told me he wanted to stay at the Journal for as long as Gigot, his mentor and friend, would have him; I never thought his tenure would end on such a tragic note.) He said he might be in Washington to cover the health-care debate in two weeks—that is, this week—and I offered to meet with him then. I only wish that I still could.
For me, at least, my work in the years 2009-10 represented the perfect life opportunity: to write on an issue of national importance, with a platform ready-built for someone with a powerful message. Working for the Wall Street Journal, Joe Rago had a similar opportunity, and he made the most of it, developing a distinct and influential voice, and winning himself acclaim in the process. While we mourn his passing, we give thanks for the person—the wisdom, wit, and warmth—we got to know, and admire, all too briefly.
Jacobs is founder and CEO of Juniper Research Group, a policy consulting firm based in Washington. He's on Twitter @chrisjacobshc.
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Hour One
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 1, Block A:.  John Batchelor and Larry Kudlow speak of Joe Rago.
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 1, Block B:  Bill Whalen, Hoover, in re:  today’s Senate vote, including Sen McCain’s brave appearance as he faces surgery for an “aggressive brain cancer.”
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 1, Block C:  Bill Whalen, Hoover, in re:  What’s wrong with the GOP; what’s wrong with the Democrats.  Dems have three possible roads: Sanders; or Kamala Harris & Corey Booker; or someone emerge to run on a more (Bill) Clintonesque policy foundation.  The reason we can't tell where the Democrats are heading is that they have no one strong voice at present.
Why is the president pounding his AG?  Because the AG is not his kind of guy.  President wants the AG to quit; so far, the AG prefers not to quit. Why not fire him?  1.Firing people [hasn't worked smoothly so far].  2. Absent Jeff Sessions, who might be a satisfactory AG?  Ted Cruz? 
Note also that Tillerson is very dissatisfied and might quit.  What happens if Trump fires Mueller? The town will blow up.  / It’s the job of the chief of staff to fire a Cabinet officer (or let him resign). Who’s CoS now? Priebus.  . . . Umm.  / Two oddities: Pres Trump won’t fire Sessions, and Sessions won’t resign.  
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 1, Block D: Larry Kudlow, in re: The stock market  has been [bullish] for a long time; why no up and down?  For one thing, the economy has been doing well for a couple of quarters.  Gold [and other relevant commods] have been fairly flat; oil is recovering.   . . . 
Hour Two 
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 2, Block A:  Captain Jerry Hendrix,  CNAS ,  in re:  Jerry’s testimony today in front of the US Senate Seapower Committee.   Thunderbolt: Cyclone-class boat; cannot cross the ocean on its own (not enough fuel). Many operating out of Bahrain; ideal for the Arabian Gulf.   Commanded by junior officers; Iran challenges harshly.
Ticonderoga-class: large surface combatant.  First five of twenty-two had two armed missile launchers, one fore, one aft. Slower, so retired.  Many options investigated in order to bring the fleet back to 350 ships.   Ghost fleet of decommissioned ships; restore some of hem.    We used to count coastal patrol boats and riverine boats as part of the Navy; under Reagan, it was decided that if a ship cannot get itself across an ocean—frigate or above—then not count it as a combat ship. 
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 2, Block B:  Captain Jerry Hendrix,  CNAS ,  in re:  Jerry’s testimony today in front of the US Senate Seapower Committee.  .. . Yards to build vessels exist all over the country. Could diversify our defense-industrial base and add very large numbers of excellent blue-collar jobs.   Fast-attack boats will fall to 21 by 2029; we’ll need low 70s to protect ourselves.   China has noted this; it's inviting disaster.  Submarines.  . . . If you ramp up to 355 ships in twenty years. can do; in ten years? No, we’re not ready – we don’t even have enough trained sailors and staff for support boats. 
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 2, Block C:  Josh Rogin, Washington Post, in re: Glenn Simpson will answer Senate questions probably in a private session; not sworn in, but it's a crime to lie. Natalia Vesilnitskaya; Bill Browder; Magnitsky Act; Fusion GPS statement: “They‘re coming after us only because we were the first to link Trump to Putin.”  
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 2, Block D:  Jed Babbin, American Spectator, in re: Breaking news:  US Navy ship fired warning shots at IRGC boat racing toward it at 150 yards; in northern Persian Gulf. Should fire at 1,000 yards; 150 yards is much too close.
In the Iran deal, Iran is asked to self-certify its actins, including the nuclear R&D at Parchin.  North Korea is doing major nuclear and delivery-system R&D for Iran in a longstanding partnership.  US has not seen the entire Iran deal – we don't even know how many side deals there are; Jed Babbin’s article:
The fact that America is being precluded from seeing parts of Obama's nuke deal with Iran means there is no deal. This is first-year law school stuff.  Iran nuclear deal is hard to enforce - Washington Times
Hour Three
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 3, Block A:  Thaddeus McCotter, WJR, the Great Vice of the Great Lakes, in re:  Pathfinder Adam Schiff, ranking member of House Intell Cee; not only we at JBS have been following him, but also Pres Trump, who tweeted an unkind modifier and then how Pathfinder has sent fourteen hours on TV in the past months speaking endless allegations about collaborations, leaks, everything. Yes, fourteen hours is a whole lot; but that tweet gave him credibility and cachet with Pathfnder’s Cali voters.
Fusion GPS /Glenn Simpson was compelled by subpoena to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Fusion GPS statement: “They‘re coming after us only because we were the first to link Trump to Putin.”  — but we want to know who paid them to do that.
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On Friday 28 August at half-past noon, at Studio 17 at WABC, Robert Klara will speak with John Batchelor on his remarkable book, The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler's Limousine in America.   If you'd like to attend, please write to the John Batchelor Show at:
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Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 3, Block B:  Michael Ledeen, FDD and PJ Media, in re:  Trump Adm will, following Churchill’s dictum, eventually do the right thing (after doing everything else).  Can fire your friends in Washington because they’re your own appointees; firing civil servants is much harder. . .  I read in Time magazine, so I mention that it could be fiction, that both sides in DC are against Trump. Everything therefore is a fight, including where pencils sit in the drawer.  . .  Head of WH personnel is the most important job; s/he needs to be speaking with the president almost every day. Need amateurs, believers, supporters to be hired. 
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 3, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman, BehindtheBlack,com and author, Capitalism in Space, in re:  Luxembourg in space. Rich little country, invests tax doallars in companies.  Pushing mining in space; passed law on private enterprise in space; signed agreement with British company that mfrs in space for profit.  A Luxembourgeois firm will also join. India: U. R. Rao [Udupi Ramachandra Rao] was India’s most significant space mgr; key dvpr in India’s first satellites. He passed away this week, most sad.  
What’s needed for humans to travel far out in space, over several generations: apparently do not need someone with two arms and two legs, inter al.
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 3, Block D:  Robert Zimmerman, BehindtheBlack,com and author, Capitalism in Space, in re:   Schedule for the commercial manned flight, in the (near future).  NASA, Boeing, SpaceX, starting to solidify plans; first uncrewed flight in Feb 2018. In June 2018, thinking of first manned flight. We’ll have two different capsules. 
Growing plants in space, in Tupperware.  Water doesn’t automatically flow to roots because there’s no gravity in weightlessness; need “nutritional delivery system.”  Seems that cucumbers, however, do in fact send out roots that sense where water is and grow that direction even in weightlessness.
Stellar eclipse deep in space: New Horizons will fly past a Kuyper Belt object.   Three eclipses of a star; on the third, for two-tenths of a second, got enough data. 
Hour Four
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 4, Block A:  Tim McGrath, Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea  (1 of 4)
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 4, Block B:  Tim McGrath, Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea  (2 of 4)
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 4, Block C:  Tim McGrath, Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea  (3 of 4)
Tuesday  25 July 2017 / Hour 4, Block D:  Tim McGrath, Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America's Revolution at Sea  (4 of 4)