Links 3/17/17

Three-dimensional preservation of cellular and subcellular structures suggests 1.6 billion-year-old crown-group red algae PLOS Biology

Chimpanzees are animals. But are they ‘persons’? WaPo

New Zealand’s Whanganui River gets the legal rights of a person Sidney Morning Herald. Tomorrow, the Penobscot!

The Nile River Delta, once the bread basket of the world, may soon be uninhabitable Quartz (Re Silc).

Sharp drop in US emissions keep global levels flat FT

Improved estimates of ocean heat content from 1960 to 2015 Science (allan). The full text is available.

Fish and chips off the menu as marine experts warn haddock has become unsustainable Telegraph. Whaddaya take for a haddock?

Dipole: The ‘Indian Niño’ that has brought devastating drought to East Africa The Scroll (J-LS).

March Madness: Trump Proposes 31% Cut to EPA and Big Cuts to Climate Change Programs Jeff Masters, Weather Underground. (Incidentally, the Weather Channel, which bought Weather Underground and promised not to change anything, is now eliminating member blogs. In addition, “Category Six” blogs, including Jeff Masters’ blog, are now no longer present on the top menu bar. This looks like crapification to me. Can readers more tuned in to weather blogs than I am reassure me?)

China?

How China’s Capital Curbs May Be Paying Off Bloomberg

China tightens again Macrobusiness

Chinese banks have yet to hit bottom Nikkei Asian Review

The Dutch far right’s election donors are almost exclusively American Quartz. Wait, not the Russkis?!

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Judge issues search warrant for anyone who Googled a victim’s name in an entire US town The Register

Judge Rejects Google Deal Over Email Scanning Fortune

This laptop-bricking USB stick just got even more dangerous ZDNet (Chuck L). Be sure to bring one to your job interview! Kidding!

Zero Days, Thousands of Nights RAND

The Billion Dollar Industry of Professional Video Game Battles Bloomberg

Gunning for profit: Firearm makers among the top short trades under Trump Reuters

Health Care

Donald Trump’s healthcare bill falls into a death spiral Ed Luce, FT. “Since Obamacare drew on conservative thought, it is no wonder Republicans have had difficulty coming up with a viable alternative.” I’ve been saying this for years, so it’s refreshing to have become part of the conventional wisdom.

Medicaid Restructuring Under the American Health Care Act and Nonelderly Adults with Disabilities Kaiser Family Foundation

In This Next Phase Of Health Reform, We Cannot Overlook Long Term Care Health Care Reform

Docs left in the dark by CMS over MACRA compliance requirements Modern Health Care. NC on MACRA here and here.

New Cold War

The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated) Moon of Alabama. An excellent aggregation.

Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion The Intercept. If my Twitter feed is any indication, that Kool-Aid is hard to undrink.

Beware The False Temptations Of The Russia Story Buzzfeed. Of course, these people are all as twisty as corkscrews, so there’s always the possibility of a sudden reversal….

Moscow awaits global community’s reaction to SS collaborators’ march in Latvia TASS. World-class subtweet, there.

Trump Transition

Trump Lets Key Offices Gather Dust Amid ‘Slowest Transition in Decades’ NYT

Trump’s Republicans have a tough Hill to climb FT

* * *

How Trump’s budget proposal would reshape the government Los Angeles Times. See handy chart of “winners and losers.”

These 80 Programs Would Lose Federal Funding Under Trump’s Proposed Budget Bloomberg. Eliminating Institute of Museum and Library Services? That’s dumb, unless agnotology is wisdom.

Trump Takes a Gamble in Cutting Programs His Base Relies On NYT

Trump’s budget cuts to domestic, aid programs draw Republican scorn Reuters

* * *

Senate Intelligence Committee finds ‘no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance’ USA Today. The headline is deceptive. From the text: “‘Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.'” But see Lawrence Wilkerson on other “elements” of other governments at NC here.

Trump Stands by Wiretapping Claim After Senate Panel Leaders Say They See No Evidence WSJ

Trump’s Wiretap Claims Are Bogus. But He’s Still Onto Something. Bloomberg

* * *

Trump’s Words May Haunt Him as Travel Ban Appeal Promised Bloomberg. I need to think through my position on “intent” more carefully, lest I join the Scalia crowd, but using Trump’s words on the trail as evidence of intent, as opposed to puffery, seems odd to me (especially because framing a “ban” as a “Muslim ban” that somehow doesn’t include all Muslims also seems odd). And even given the words, does intent matter? Lincoln, for example, lacked to intent to “end racism” when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So what?

The Dangerous Precedent Set by Judicial Attacks on Trump’s Travel Ban David Frum, The Atlantic. Bush speechwriter Frum is now a liberal icon, so I guess we have to take this seriously.

Trump at the Pump: Car Companies Move to Create Fuel-Efficiency Double Standard Scientific American

Politicking Without Politics Jacobin

Progressives Slam Tom Perez’s New DNC Transition Team HuffPo. “Just two people on the committee endorsed Ellison in the DNC chair race: Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Brian Weeks, the political director of AFSCME. Of the two, only Jayapal supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential primary.” Odd.

Centrist Democrats struggle to draft a survival strategy McClatchy. So kicking the left isn’t a strategy?

Column: ‘Most liberal governor’ rights ship in Minnesota Chicago Tribune. Note the focus on a budget surplus. Fine at the state level…

Imperial Collapse Watch

Someone thought it was a good idea to blow up a $300 drone with a Patriot missile Quartz (Re Silc). Boom. Ka-Ching. Boom. Rinse and repeat.

Lockheed Martin says it’s ready to hand over laser weapon to Army for testing WaPo

Fury in Cambodia as US asks to be paid back hundreds of millions in war debts Sidney Morning Herald

It’s payback time, America VN Express

Class Warfare

Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overtime pay Guardian. Being careful and precise about language helps working people. Who knew? (And in Maine, too!)

The Revolution Will Not Be Curated Thomas Frank, The Baffler. This is a good Baffler issue.

The Wrongest Profession Dean Baker, The Baffler. Economists.

The Case for Countering Right-Wing Populism With ‘Left-Wing Economics’ New York Magazine. Another takedown of Beauchamp’s Vox piece. “Taken together, Beauchamp’s prescription for the Democratic Party appears to be: Make defending multiculturalism against Trump’s bigotry the heart of your message; don’t worry about winning over non-college-educated white Trump voters; and build a new majority by turning out nonwhites and appealing to moderate conservatives alienated by Trumpism. Which is to say: Run the same campaign that Hillary Clinton just lost.”

Despite differences in culture, US and India fall short in childbirth in similar ways The Conversation (J-LS).

The Fed Hikes Ian Welsh

Antidote du jour:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

221 comments

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Is death by a thousand cuts less harmful than having your throat cut? Seems to me that when it comes to the environment even what looks like small harms add up….

    1. JoeK

      “The company said it will help in the reef’s regeneration by creating a fund to help the local economy impacted by the reef’s destruction and to help pay for repairs to the coral.”

      Help how much? A buck each and done is “help.” Never mind the…..which of the mortal sins am I reaching for first….that any behavior can be compensated for with money. Then: “repair” the coral? With what, Legos and epoxy?

    1. Marina Bart

      Hi, Foppe!

      I’m sorry. I got swamped by forces and demands beyond my control, and the next week, in some ways, is worse. I didn’t forget. It’s just that I need to be a little sharper and be able to take a little more time than what I’ve had the last few days. Cruising through Links for news and a sip of Lambert snark is way easier.

      I will try my very best to reply in a thoughtful way before the end of the day. If I do, I’ll flag here as well as posting there.

      1. Foppe

        Like I said, no need to rush b/c you feel like you owe me something. I have the comment section in an rss, so I’ll see your reply when you post it. :) (And I’m being kept busy/entertained by dutch labor party members who don’t get why their party was punished so badly — 75% loss — for cheerfully endorsing 4 years of austerity politics. Honestly, such thankful work.)

  1. bronco

    Just to play Devil’s advocate , whats wrong with cutting funding to the EPA?

    To me these agencies all look like jobs programs.Aren’t all they all top heavy with admin anyway? I would take an axe to the top of the payroll and savage the admin staff.

    Would budget increases at the EPA have prevented Flint Michigan?

    I’m not anti environment though, I would apply the same standard to the military instead of a 54 billion increase I would rip the military budget a new one at the same time .

    1. Tom_Doak

      Well you are right for the next four years … there isn’t much point in having a well-staffed EPA if no one is going to act on anything to protect the environment, anyway.

      But I would happily second your nomination as Secretary of Defense.

    2. Ed

      One thing confusing about the federal government is that the functions of many of these agencies have little to nothing to do with what the agency is called, or even their mission statement. Both red state types and blue state types get tripped up over this. Examples of this include the departments of Education (student loan program) and Energy (nukes).

      I’ve seen the argument that the main function of the EPA for some time now has been to harass businessmen who don’t have the requisite political connections, not to protect the environment.

      1. Teejay

        Where is this argument that you’ve seen, who is making it and how is harassing defined? I’m confident some businesses need EPA “harassing”.

        1. Marina Bart

          Yes, but the point is, if the EPA harasses the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, you don’t get better environmental protection, but you DO get more resentment from people who, unlike the left, have a party available through which to express their resentment and punish the agency.

          I was a small business owner in 2009. Obama’s approach to the financial meltdown absolutely destroyed my business, by destroying my clients’ businesses. I’m a dedicated leftist, so as my eyes opened, I moved left. But if I hadn’t had my personal history, or was demographically more aligned with the Republican Party, maybe I would just backed into Trump’s arms. A lot of small business owners did. That element of what happened over the past eight years doesn’t get much coverage. If you had your own company, and it didn’t serve protected Democratic fiefdoms in very specific ways, you were crushed, while you had to watch the media blather on mendaciously about all the glorious things Obama was doing and wanted to do.

          All those acts of destructive hypocrisy add up. It’s how you get a rump party with no power.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Media blather on …

            One side screams big cuts, the other makes claims about promises not delivered, results not demonstrated.

            And we are asked to react emotionally based on that.

            No detailed presentations or discussions.

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              Meantime the inconvenient truth that Obama appointed the Monsanto general counsel as head of the EPA is forgotten.

              May he choke on a tall glass of Roundup by the pool in Tahiti. My assertion stands: Worst-President-Ever. He normailized Bush-Cheney corporo-fascism and Permanent War and convinced a giant swath of “Democrat-minded” people that Dems should be for drones, spies, billionaires, and Wall St.

              1. Teejay

                He protected Wall Street fraud and American war criminals and punished those who spoke up about American culpability in the 9/11 threat. I can’t say he was the worst president ever. I am sure I’ve never been more profoundly disappointed and betrayed
                in the actions or inactions of a government official in my lifetime.
                We needed bold leadership and we got milquetoast status quo policy designed not to offend the donor class.

              2. hidflect

                A few friends and I all watch Jimmy Dore’s YouTube channel for this reason. He’s not been afraid to point out what a disaster Obama was and how people are only waking up because it’s Trump in power now.

          2. oh

            I’ve seen at least one small business being destroyed because of EPA (NEIC, the investigative arm) entrapping them and placing undue penalties and jail term on the management when the big boys (Dow Chemical who burned nuclear waste in their incinerator) went scot free. Not saying two wrongs make a right but geez, where is the even handed enforcement?

            As far as the EPA or any other agency is concerned, these bureaucracies are constantly trying to expand into new (unrelated) areas to save themselves. They need pruning (like rose bushes) to prevent them from growing and going wild!

    3. cocomaan

      Flint Michigan wasn’t an environmental problem, was it? It was more of an engineering problem.

      To me, the value in the EPA comes from the massive amount of bureaucratically-driven basic science it puts together.

      For instance, I just finished the book A Civil Action about the civil case against two companies involved with the Woburn, MA cancer cluster. The companies had been dumping caustic chemicals into the soil. The EPA followed up one of the largest civil settlements over an environmental issue with the declaration of a superfund site and more crippling lawsuits against those companies. That’s all the result of a bureaucracy backing scientists.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Good book (and movie). But the epa was the absolute last resort for the environmental attorney who bankrupted himself and his firm trying to use the courts to get “justice” for the residents. And that case was in the 80’s–a lot closer to the activist 60’s than we are today.

        You could also read Toms River or even Erin Brockovich for similar stories.

        Now I’m no fan of opportunist lawyers who use environmentally produced human suffering and death to score big paydays from corporate polluters, but it’s almost impossible to argue that an independent, fully-functioning epa wouldn’t have thrown its weight around long before expensive private lawsuits became necessary.

        And what was the epa’s position on obama’s TPP, one of the effects of which would have been to neuter domestic pollution laws on behalf of foreign companies in the name of the almighty free trade?

        1. cocomaan

          Points taken. Schlichtmann’s firm really tried to push the EPA to get their reports out before the conclusion of the civil lawsuit (which by policy EPA doesn’t get involved in). EPA did not. As you probably remember, the book is a david/goliath story that still resulted in the $8 mil settlement.

          I think the EPA has squandered a lot of resources and is as probably corrupt as any of the rest of the federal bureaucracies. But unlike other departments, the EPA is representing something that can’t represent itself, namely the land. Since I’m a big fan of Aldo Leopold and he’s written at length about what happens when there’s no environmental conscience anywhere in the bureaucracy, I think we need to keep it alive.

          It really needs a firebrand leader, but the Democrats are all about anesthetized, half dead zombies who slouch around offending no one, and the Republicans don’t give a shit.

          1. Katniss Everdeen

            An EPA is absolutely necessary. This EPA, as currently constructed and captured, maybe not so much.

            If it is allowed to wither and die, hopefully someone will miss it. It was Richard Nixon, after all, who gave it life. You just never know.

            1. jrs

              hopefully someone rich and powerful will miss it you mean as they are the only one’s whose opinions have any weight. Well then I hope so too.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Flint depends on what level you look at. Immediately, the problem was that they didn’t use a water additive that would have protected the water from the pipes.

        But the underlying problem is that the Flint River is drastically polluted; that’s why the water from it leached lead from the pipes. If they had continued using lake water, they wouldn’t have had that problem.

        Apparently the lead-in-municipal-water problem is widespread; I wonder if most of the cases are because the source water is polluted?

        (Just had our well water tested, for lead and other things – no idea what the pipes are made of. Old galvanized or copper pipes can be a problem. Came out OK.)

    4. Katniss Everdeen

      Would budget increases at the EPA have enabled them to finally ensure that the Flint water situation, which continues to fester to this day, be resolved? Now that their initial “ball-dropping” has been acknowledged, that is.

      Is their hands-off stance on the composition and environmental effects of fracking fluid due to budgetary constraints? Not to mention the air quality debacle at the world trade center in 2001.

      Incompetent or ineffective government employees are notoriously hard to fire, especially the ones who seem to be hired specifically to neuter the agencies they serve. It seems the only thing they understand and accept is budget cuts. I continue to wonder whether a weak or captured regulatory agency is really better than none at all.

      It’s high time that the people in these agencies realize that they need to earn their cut of the budget by producing results. And yes, that includes a military monolith that hasn’t won a war in five decades, not even the ones they start themselves.

      1. Optinader

        There are legions picking weeds in front of the burning building ill leave it at that. Right now being embedded like a tick in one of the agencies is looking like a pretty good middle class alternative if one is willing to do the shuffling.

        Unfortunatly with Trump a gaping suspension of logic I see no push back on the mantra of Throwing more resources in the MIC black hole. It is a copout because the MOC is just an easy infrastructure to dial ip in a make work program. What dysfunctional MIC programs need to pump out more “stuff” at “renegotiated prices”? Many broken windows at work here and it is the tangental future jobs guarantee to the military brass that play along.

        Not getting the resounding crickets on this other than both sides of the political realm are in on it.

      2. fresno dan

        Katniss Everdeen
        March 17, 2017 at 9:41 am

        Thanks for both (10:04am) your elucidating critiques on the EPA

        1. Aumua

          Yeah, good riddance. Stupid EPA. What did they ever do about Obama’s TPP ©? Nothing. Same goes for NASA. To hell with them all.

          This is all Obama’s fault. THANKS Obama.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Isn’t there a simple guide to understanding DC – the name means the opposite of what they do?

            Here, it’s they call themselves Environmental Protection Agency, they are not protecting the environment, going by that simple rule.

          2. Lord Koos

            I’m not an Obama fan, but really, “it’s all Obama’s fault” is a bit on the simple side…

      3. John

        Remember Anne Gorsuch, red ink Reagan’s EPA pick? The wingnuts have had three administrations to insert dissident sleeper cells into the EPA bureaucracy and two fellow traveler administrations to slow walk environmental policy. Why would we expect an efficient govt agency under neo liberal consensus?
        Irony is, Anne died of cancer relatively early. I wonder if she ever connected any dots on her deathbed. Doesn’t look like her boy has.

      4. Uahsenaa

        The problem with the EPA re: Flint is that it’s only one of several moving parts that need to function in order for the crisis to finally get resolved. These include the EPA, the governor’s office, the Michigan DNR, the Flint city government (and it’s parallel mayor and city manager often working at cross purposes), the state house (which would have to allocate funds), the courts (which have provided the primary impetus for Snyder, the governor, to get off his duff), and a host of minor players.

        In this melange, EPA oversees and coordinates with DNR but has no meaningful influence over the local waterworks where much of the coverup took place. EPA also has no influence over the governor, who is responsible for actually coming up with a plan of action and who has resisted doing anything but the bare minimum for some time now, so much so that the courts have sanctioned him multiple times. If you completely removed EPA from the equation, you would still have most of this mess of competing concerns mucking things up and generally preventing the people of Flint from getting justice any time soon. Pipe replacement is projected to take years to complete. The money is finally there, but the recovery has been slow going.

        1. Montanamaven

          Yes, so that makes the point that these DC bureaucracies are fairly useless. That’s where I side with conservatives who want to keep the corruption local where you can keep an eye on it, shame it, or get a piece of the action. The US is way too big a place. We need to divide this place up into regions. But that could only happen with a constitutional convention or apocalypse . So, in the meantime, keep after big government to make it leaner and smarter.

          1. Uahsenaa

            That would remain true only so long as EPA is the only federal agency involved. Remember, Flint is currently covered by a federal state of emergency, which means FEMA could be involved if the administration had the will to do so. Once FEMA goes in, they have pretty broad powers to basically take over all operations on the ground.

          2. Anon

            The DC bureacracies are not just in DC. The EPA has regional offices staffed by real life, trained (educated) personnel who (in my experience) take their work seriously. That is not to say the EPA isn’t constrained by “internal politics” that delays for denies real environmental problems.

            The EPA helps create and implement environmental regulations (science based) important to the overall health of the US population. Sometimes the details are straightforward, sometimes not. In the end, local corruption of environmental regulation is easier than at the federal level. Bureacracies are a bitch and a burden we pay for over-populating a fragile planet.

      5. inhibi

        Yes it IS due to budgetary constraints. My wife has done lots of pro-bono legal work for the EPA, and the EPA is so afraid of counter-lawsuits, they would rather send polite emails to Exxon & other companies found polluting than actually take legal action.

          1. Anon

            …Nader’s Raiders would be considered Terrorists today. (Look up the documentary film, “If a Tree Falls”; Earth First!).

    5. vidimi

      you say that as if a jobs program were a bad thing.

      that said, i oppose MIC spending, even as a jobs program because if you make it, it will get used.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We’ve talked about motivation.

        Will he do this or that to benefit his global empire business?

        Did this guy do it for his legacy? Was that conflict of interest? Would he have done it otherwise? Did it come at a cost to the nation, to boost legacy, image or falling poll numbers?

        Do the EPA guys favor a jobs program so they can be top heavy with administrators (the question asked by bronco)?

        We can say a federal agency does not have to be run like a household, and yet, those who ‘drop the ball’ can, when justified, be let go.

        It’s easy to mix that up with iron-rice bowl work, and think that if an agency is not being run like a household, that there is always more money, and that hiring more (even top heavy administrators) in a non-household agency means we are patriotically helping the national economy, and implies that we keep those ‘ball-dropping’ guys.

      2. bronco

        Jobs programs are okay if they are doing actual work. The EPA has dropped an awful lot of balls in relation to the size of their budget lately.

        Even if Flint wasn’t the EPA’s fault to begin with , it seems as though they sprained their necks pretty badly looking the other way while it was going on. Has anyone been fired? At the very least the number of firings should be larger than the number of deaths .

        1. optimader

          Falling off a log programs would be

          1.) Urban tram line infrastructure http://viennamap360.com/vienna-tram-map#.WMwFBOQzW3A
          and light rail ring routes that integrate outlying suburb, feed existing conventional commuter rail routes into large urban city centers…

          2.) Moderately fast rail intercity/long haul AMTRAK (as opposed to highspeed rail that is invariably a high $$ political clstrfk that will collapse under its own weight in the US and not happen)

          3.) more efficient intermodal shipping infrastructure to eliminate (minimize) long haul trucking.

          All huge economic/ environmental benefit multipliers.

            1. optimader

              These all require intelligent Pols with some shred of integrity to do what they are actually elected to do, while at the same time not being shredded by the Fourth and Fifth Estates.
              ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_Estate )

              Writing that I instantaneously realize we are probably doomed, might as well await the Vogons. Maybe I will be more optimistic after I wash a huge Corned Beef sandwich down w/ a black and tan amongst cognitively dissonant Irish Catholics at a local Pub??.

      1. Carolinian

        When the robots take over we may all be working for the government. However there are some government departments that do actual harm rather than good. Putting the State Department on starvation rations could be a Trump move we all should applaud (and one that the WaPo deplores…another plus).

        As for the military, a US under the sway of the MIC and other forms of crony capitalism is a US that starts to make libertarianism look good. Progressives who stood idly by while Holder and Geithner and Nuland abused their positions have little credibility in countering the smaller government advocates.

    6. JTMcPhee

      Bronco, might I suggest that you need to do a lot of studying up before making a blanket statement about federal agencies being nothing but jobs programs. How much of “industry,” including FIRE and of course “medical UNsurance,” and let us not forget the really deadly dead-end we call the “military-industrial-security complex,” and various service businesses, are just “jobs programs” used to extract wealth from government transfers and subsidies, and Hoover up the real wealth us working mopes actually labor at, at ever fewer real jobs, to create — and get an ever smaller part of the creation?

      As a former US EPA enforcement attorney and assistant regional counsel, with some small connection to my alma mater, I have lots of anecdotes about lost and wasted motion by EPA senior executives and lesser employees, little bits of corruption and fraud. But that Agency was charged by past Congresses with “protecting human health and the environment.” And was given a number of (increasingly kneecapped) statutory mandates and delegations, to try to effectuate that large goal.

      As to Flint, yes, adequate funding for the Safe Drinking Water Act program would have been a big help in avoiding that particular act of killing. But it’s not the low level staffers that let the rot go forward, and it was a lot of state people, administering a program mandated by Congress, that did the corruption and neglect that is most responsible for the situation. Cutting the budget and shrinking the staff will have no effect on the selling-out, just reduce the possible number of effective regulators, and whistle-blowers (failing any effective regulatory action.)

      I knew goldbrickers there, but also a whole lot of very hard-working, dedicated people who soldiered on, even in the face of the crapification and hamstringing the Reaganauts went so happily about initiating in 1980, and that has continued at various paces since. (By the way, this crap about cutting the EPA budget 30% is straight out of the Heritage Foundation’s 1979 playbook for the Reagan admin, titled “Mandate For Leadership.” Nothing new under the sun, hey?)

      Remember when Lake Erie was a soup of algae, thanks to phosphates from detergents, or the Cuyahoga River’s surface burned? When DDT was in common use? When you could EAT the air in Pittsburgh and Gary-Hammond-Whiting? When tetraethyl lead was improving your car’s combustion, but maybe making more “criminals” along the roadsides? When pesticides were carelessly sprayed everywhere, and introduced into ‘commerce” with no testing of any note? How about when toxic and hazardous industrial wastes were drummed up and sent to places like “Chen-Dyne,” to be dumped into a little pond dug in porous soil along a water-supply river, mixed by ex-con labor with long metal poles that got eaten by the mixture, adding synthetic mint smell to mask the intolerable odors from volatilized chemicals of the worst sort? Leading to one the first “Superfund” actions to make the industries that generated that crap pay to clean it up, though the Superfund program was also rife with waste and corrpution.

      How about the need for a guy like “The Fox,” who to protect his beloved Fox River in Illinois, felt compelled to shame the government into forcing corporations to reduce or stop emissions to the air and direct untreated discharges into the river by plugging outfalls and putting caps on smokestacks, leading finally to regulation and reduction by government action? I got a lot of those anecdotes too.

      And there’s lots of examples of seat-fillers doing bad stuff, like selling off publicly owned mineral rights for cheap, after bribes of sex and drugs, and letting “medications” that klll people into “the market” despite evidence of harm, and ignoring all that control fraud, and procuring weapons that don’t work at vast cost, in exchange for similar consideration and post-government employment opportunities. But there are still lots of government employees, at places like EPA and CDC, that take their responsibilities (even those that are kneecapped by political appointees and constant pressures of regulatory capture and a faithless Congress that repeals the agencies’ authorities and mandates from earlier, maybe less corrupt times.

      The sense of futility so many of us ordinary mopes feel, as all the bad old corporate externality-dumping behaviors resurface and become “normalized,” now increasingly freed of any “regulation” or limits as the few figure out all the tricks and levers to “advance themselves” at the cost of the rest of us, just chaps those of us that worked pretty hard to rein in the worst of all that. I have no faith that our species can do any better, and am pretty convinced that profit and self-pleasing and arrogance of way too many of us, and ignorance and indifference or despondency by too many of us, have us on an inevitable path to a cliff.

      But your devil’s advocacy smells like another exemplar of kicking sideways and kicking down (“welfare mothers” and “useless eaters” and “drown it in the bathtub-ism), at people who ought to be aligned in trying to keep the Fokkers and Fuggers and greedheads from bleeding and killing us and the planet’s habitability, while they engaged in this last vast, Elite-titillating, likely terminal scene in our species’ prancing across the stage of “history.” What’s afoot in the political economy now looks like a death wish to me, and to others too.

      There’s fraud and corrpution and waste, always and everywhere. I saw a recent article, can’t find the link, giving some historical support to that (going back to “prehistoric times,” even). The trick is to keep it to a tolerable minimum, and to stop the really deadly behaviors by “regulation” in its best sense.

      1. cocomaan

        This was an epic post.

        But your devil’s advocacy smells like another exemplar of kicking sideways and kicking down (“welfare mothers” and “useless eaters” and “drown it in the bathtub-ism)

        Having worked in the welfare bureaucracy for a miserable period in 2009-10, I can attest to the fact that most people don’t understand how the system works, where it doesn’t work, and how the real problems are often shrouded from view. For instance, in my case, the problems with TANF didn’t come from accountability, since that was easy to keep track of. It came from a neoliberal model of relying on the private sector to summon jawbs out of thin air, and plugging people with other social ills into jawbs that didn’t make any sense for them in an effort to be accountable. Plus the fact that there were five bureaucracies stacked atop one another.

      2. Eclair

        Thank you, JT. Lovely and on-point shredding of the ‘well-paid and useless civil servant’ meme. In our small city, a group routinely demonizes the police and firefighters, mainly because they have a union, decent pay and medical and retirement benefits. (Note: I may have other problems with police and the justice system, but I certainly don’t want them underpaid and on the take.)

        I was going to suggest to Bronco that we just take all the EPA employees and move them over to the CIA/NSA/multiple other alphabet security agencies, where the tools for monitoring the activities of polluters are much more sophisticated and the rules safeguarding privacy are more, umm, flexible. And the penalties for transgression are swift and fatal. Plus, their funding is a black budget, so no one gets to complain.

      3. marym

        Thank you.

        These agencies and services aren’t being defunded or dismantled because they’re ineffective or corrupt. It’s because, with slightly different rhetoric, neither the right (freedom) nor the liberals (markets, innovation) support the mission.

        Both have defined the role of business down to making as much of a profit as possible; and the liberals are maybe two minutes away from completely joining the right in defining the role of government as facilitating that, either by abdicating regulatory responsibility or by violence.

        If there is to be a populist left, we somehow need to restore the concepts of civil service, the commons, and the common good.

      4. Oregoncharles

        I spent the summer of, I think, 1965 in Chicago. Most days, there was a huge plume of PINK smoke coming from Gary. I still shudder to think what made it pink.

        “Those were the days, my friend…”

      5. Anon

        Let me add to the chorus of praise for JT’s commentary. It closely echoes my experience.

        JT, I do not know how you summon the energy and focus to respond so cogently to broadly misdirected comments!

    7. PlutoniumKun

      Lots of the work of organisations like the EPA are hidden, and you only see the results when things go wrong. The long grind of setting standards for a panoply of industries, then writing and enforcing each individual license is expensive and gruelling and boring work and largely out of the public eye. Just read through the emissions license for any manufacturing plant and you’ll see what I mean by boring.

      If the EPA completely vanished today, you probably wouldn’t notice anything today, or tomorrow. But I guarantee that in 10 years time you’ll notice the foul air and reeking watercourses wherever you live.

    8. Marbles

      Top brass of these agencies fight the political battles for the rank and file. Without advocates, the agencies suffer because those holding the purse strings have a million other things on their plates.

      That’s the system we have.

      1. GF

        Speaking of devils: I asked my freedom caucus rep. Paul Gosar (Dist. 4 AZ) whether he will vote for HB 861 (The complete bill wording: “To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. This bill terminates the Environmental Protection Agency on December 31, 2018.”) Here is his lengthy response:

        “Thank you for contacting me regarding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I appreciate your thoughts on this issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

        For far too long, former President Obama and his administration attempted to act beyond their legal authority and legislate via regulations. The EPA and its former Administrator, Gina McCarthy, were prime examples of such egregious overreach. I worked tirelessly to rein in this out of control bureaucracy. Specifically, I led the charge against the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) and Clean Power Plan rules, and introduced articles of impeachment against the head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, during the Obama Administration.

        On March 25, 2014, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the proposed WOTUS rule that would assert Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters. Contrary to claims made by the EPA, this dramatically expanded EPA authority and directly contradicted prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions that strictly limited that authority. In fact, when announcing the final rule, the agency claimed that WOTUS would expand agency control over 60% of our country’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands that were previously non-jurisdictional. Moreover, the rule was based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses, all of which added up to an unconscionable executive overreach.

        I fought this overreach from the beginning and throughout the Obama Administration. I held a hearing in Phoenix in June 2014 where we heard testimony from nine Arizona witnesses. I have introduced legislation, inserted funding riders into appropriations bills, blocked an amendment that tried to strip one of my WOTUS riders and voted at least five different times for legislation that passed the House to block the misguided Rule. In January 2016, the House and Senate passed legislation blocking WOTUS utilizing the Congressional Review Act and put a bill on President Obama’s desk that he subsequently vetoed.

        However, President Donald Trump represents a new direction for the size and scope of executive bureaucracies. Thankfully, after many years of battling this gross executive overreach, the president issued an executive order to undo the costly and burdensome WOTUS rule. I was proud to stand beside the President to jointly send a signal to the rest of the country that the days of unelected bureaucrats ruling from Washington were over. Overturning this rule will quickly pay material dividends to countless farmers, ranchers, small business owners and other water users around the country, especially in the American West.

        In addition to the WOTUS rule, President Obama’s EPA attempted to implement a new mandate to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power sources, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule. I opposed this new mandate because it was another example of the Obama Administration’s unnatural fixation with destroying the coal industry, killing jobs, and driving up energy prices for consumers through unnecessary regulations. According to estimates by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these EPA regulations would have destroyed 224,000 jobs annually, eliminated $112 billion in GDP every year, and reduced American’s disposable income by $586 billion …all for only a 1.8% reduction of global carbon-dioxide emissions by the year 2030.

        In response to this unprecedented power grab, the House of Representatives passed resolutions rejecting this rule using the Congressional Review Act. I was proud to cosponsor and vote in favor of these measures. Even though a majority of both Houses of Congress rejected these onerous regulations, President Obama vetoed these bills. I have worked diligently to protect America’s power plants from the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach, and also voted in favor of H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act – legislation that passed the House and would protect states from being forced to comply with the CPP until after a comprehensive judicial review.

        Similar to the WOTUS rule, however, the days of the Clean Power Plan rule under President Trump appear to be numbered. The White House has confirmed that President Trump is expected to sign another executive order that will do away with this heedlessly duplicitous rule, calling on the EPA to revisit and rescind it. This revision will end the EPA’s overreach and undo costly regulations that burden everyday Americans. Critically, it will restore the constitutionally-protected separation of powers between Congress and the President.

        Under Administrator McCarthy’s direction, the EPA consistently enacted job-killing regulations that increased food prices and energy costs for hard-working American families. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost or put at risk as a result of these new mandates, which disproportionately impacted the poor. Furthermore, on numerous occasions, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy broke the law by lying to Congress in order to force these misguided and overreaching regulations-regulations that have no scientific basis-down our throats. No bureaucrat is above the law, nor should they be allowed to act with a unilateral disregard for the Rule of Law and the Constitution. Congress cannot derelict its duty to act as a check on unconstitutional overreach from the executive branch. That is why I introduced H.Res.417, to initiate impeachment proceedings against former Administrator McCarthy.

        Finally, during President Obama’s tenure, I aggressively targeted the EPA through the amendment and appropriations process. These amendments include: cutting the EPA’s budget by $61 million, limiting frivolous lawsuits against energy companies developing on federal lands, prohibiting the EPA from spending taxpayer money to hire PR firms, prohibiting funds from being used to send EPA employees to other countries to implement the Paris Talks, and prohibiting the EPA from having a vote on the Federal Permitting Improvement Council potentially holding up the expedited process for projects. Ultimately, Congress, not EPA bureaucrats,, should determine the scope and applicable jurisdiction of our country’s environmental policies. The fundamental job of the EPA is to protect our nation’s air and water, not to force through burdensome regulations – especially outside their scope of influence – at the expense of the American people.

        Thankfully, a new day has dawned for the EPA under the leadership of former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The EPA is perhaps the most egregious example of a government agency addicted to regulation, suffering from dangerous mission creep that threatens America’s economic well-being. Mr. Pruitt, a scholar not only of our Constitution but of present environmental regulation, knows this better than anyone. I am confident that, under his stewardship, the EPA will return to its core mission – to protect our nation’s air and water. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House of Representatives, as well as Administrator Pruitt and President Trump, to make this vision a reality.

        Again, I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to serve Arizona as part of its congressional delegation. Your suggestions are always welcome, and if ever I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To receive the latest legislative updates and news you can sign up for my e-newsletter at http://www.gosar.house.gov.

        Sincerely,

        Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S.

        Member of Congress
        Sincerely,
        (signed)
        Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S.
        Member of Congress ”

        Note that he takes being a dentist very seriously.

        I received the response within an hour of writing to him. I wonder if other republican congresscritters would respond similarly if asked about HB 861??.

  2. Marco

    Trying hard NOT to become an annoying Team Blue prick first to post the latest Trump atrocity but cmon…targeting Meals On Wheels?!?! My only hope is that control of 3 branches of government is the rope long enough for Republicans to finally hang themselves.

    1. Roger Smith

      Except he isn’t “targeting Meals on Wheels” as these hyper ventilating huffposters would have every re-tweet in rage. They are cutting the appropriated money sent to states for types of program spending, one of those that falls into that category being Meals on Wheels. The state will ultimately decide where the money goes. I get the idea of these cuts, but I have zero faith the sort of auditing and trimming that needs to be done is going to happen naturally, hands off like this. This will just increase upper admin. bloat unless it is monitored. It is pretty lazy given the track record of corporate-political whores infesting the economic infrastructure.

    2. Marco

      Also did anyone read abound Sen Graham’s suggestion Republicans might skip TrumpCare and let Obamacare collapse on its own in 1-2 years via increasing premiums. I knew the ACA death-spiral was baked-in-the-cake but not on that time-frame. Or is this just wishful thinking on the right?

      1. craazyboy

        Been waiting for NeoCare to gel a bit more before spending any brain cell time on it, but whatever care and half life it has does give me concern about whom it really is that does the collapsing part.

        Some tidbits that stuck in my mind on Ver 2 was I read that the allowed spread insurance companies can charge between young and old folks policies is actually being increased from 3X to 5X. So we do really need to tell our employers we can’t afford to be fired before age 66 and 4 months.

        It sounds like the penalty doesn’t go away and I saw something about another(!) penalty for coverage gaps(?!). I presume that means gaps in our payments – not shitty policy gaps in delivery of service.

        Then something about changing how the IRS handles the payment of the subsidy – for those making less than $80k. Had focus problems at that point. May need a CPA and it’s possible also a bridge loan product should we require cash flow to pay the monthly plus potentially a deductible until our CPA can file for the subsidy and finally receive payment on whatever schedule the IRS will be committing to there. Like I say, don’t take my word on this. We’ll have to re-visit the status once the caked is baked fuller.

        1. Marco

          “… the allowed spread insurance companies can charge between young and old folks policies is actually being increased from 3X to 5X”…Really?

          Remember how serious Obamacare deficiencies were simply glossed over by the liberal base?How can the same thing NOT happen with TrumpCare and the Trump base voter? An Oval Office Propaganda campaign is just as effective irregardless of who holds office.

          1. Pat

            I don’t know. The majority of the press colluded on the gloss over of ACA and funnily even then a lot of people figured it out. I’m pretty sure that with lots of reports from both the corporate press and groups AARP, Kaiser, Doctors in general to point out that if you hated Obamacare you are going to despise Ryan/Trumpcare, the Oval Office may find that tweets don’t do it. Especially when those who already hate it figure out that nothing they hate is going to change and a lot of the stuff they actually like is going to go away.

          2. craazyboy

            Yup. Really. The 5X was simple enough that I’m certain I remember that correctly too.

            It’s easy to make fun of this clown show, but it really is life and death stuff. Maybe we should be handing out the appropriate legal penalties to the pols?

          3. NotTimothyGeithner

            The bourgeois class covered for Obama because they weren’t directly affected. There was a poll last year that broke down ACA approval and disapproval by who had to deal with it. It’s largely popular with people who didn’t change their status.

            In this case, the Medicare and Medicaid issues are still threats to the bourgeois republicans who for the most part dominate the narrative.

            Shrub’s SS privatization scheme was stomped on by GOP voters who were retired or nearing retirement and the AARP. Team Blue’s usual line up of villains was extolling the virtues of Sen. Monahan who was always big on SS privatization.

            Wealth vs income matter. 100k in NY isn’t the same as 79,999 in Alabama. Guess who has more money to spend on politicians?

            1. Eclair

              Forbes article explains why ‘white socialism’ prevents the US from adopting universal health care. Forbes! Or have I missed their conversion?
              Colorado State Senator Doctor Irene Aguilar, who has been for the past 8 years, the primary force behind the failed-at-the-ballot-box Colorado Health Care Cooperative, posted this on her FB page.

              1. jrs

                yes it’s “socialism” that prevents the U.S. from adopting universal health care. Because there are all these socialists whites see that um something ..

                1. Eclair

                  You might want to read the article before commenting, albeit incoherently.

                  And, apologies, because I can’t seem to make the link thing-y work consistently. Search for ‘unspeakable realities block universal health coverage.’

        2. Katniss Everdeen

          Old age is the ultimate “pre-existing condition,” documented irrefutably by the second question on every application: DOB.

          Shit happens over time, especially in a hostile environment.

          1. JTMcPhee

            The editor of the local weekly “Chamber of Commerce-friendly” newspaper, who has been pumping out neoliberal sh@t for years, now has a health problem that threatens his personal, lily-white, not-yet-eligible-for-Medicare patoot. And gee whiz, all of a sudden it’s all about “health care for all.” A bitter older guy like me might go with advising him to do what he and his editorial policies (driven by the owners of the “free press,” of course, but still, he accepts the paycheck and goes out looking for “conservative” opinion pieces) advise the “undeserving poor” to do: Just die, and do it quickly, and don’t expect any kind of kindness in the doing of it. But then he still lives and breathes, and puts out his weekly editorial output, so maybe the “disease” of “socialized medicine” might cure him of his heart being five sizes too small…

      2. Pat

        It is possible it would happen that soon. It could also hang on for a few years longer. Unless all the loopholes to paying the fine were actually addressed, and even if they aren’t, the numbers of selectively uninsured would continue to rise, the crapification of employer based plans would continue and yes more and more locales would have one or even no choices on the exchange as insurance companies drop coverage in areas. The only question is how long it would take before everyone would admit that doing that Swiss plan without all the controls of the health industries (insurance/pharma/hospital and doctors) by a government determined that they provide actual health care to everyone in the country does not work.

        And that last section is the reason we have a problem addressing this issue in this country. Those running our government are not determined that everyone in America has health care, not insurance. Some aren’t even determined that they have insurance except as a cover. Mind you everyone will fluff about no matter which version fails and eventually declare government health care a failure rather than understand that trying to do it in the market and not fully by government was the failure. Think of it as the Democrats and the Clinton loss on steroids – lots of look at that over there, not the simple facts of political kowtowing to grifters and rentiers.

        But Graham, and Trump earlier, are right that the GOPs option with the least fall out is to let it die on its own over the course of the next half decade. Nothing is going to leave them unscathed with most voters except to pass Medicare for All, and they cannot do that both because of supposed ideology AND more importantly their campaign donors (funny how both parties have that problem).

        1. Marco

          “…they cannot do that both because of supposed ideology AND more importantly their campaign donors (funny how both parties have that problem)…” Good point!

          How hard would it be to compile a list of extremely compromised democratic pols benefiting the most from Health Insurance / Pharma largess? Wasn’t Colorado Dem senator Bennet partially complicit in sinking Amendment 69? And what about the amendment process in the Senate which everyone claims Bernie is so adept. He was able to smack Booker. I’d like to see more of that.

          1. Marina Bart

            Dude, they’re ALL compromised. That’s the point.

            If someone has been elected to office as a Democrat nationally, the odds are very, very high they’re corporate-owned grifter. I bet you could name every Democrat in Congress or DNC leadership who isn’t on the grift to some wing of the Medical death industry on the fingers of one hand. And not need your thumb.

      3. jrs

        if they skipped it they would be half-human, instead they want to use the “opportunity” to go after Medicaid and Medicare.

    3. Anne

      What this budget proposes is to end Community Development Block Grants (among a lot of other things):

      Under Trump’s plan, a popular HUD program known as Community Development Block Grants would be ended. The grants are pots of money given to the states to fund various social programs, including free and reduced-price school meals for children from low income families and Meals on Wheels, the national nonprofit that coordinates volunteers at the community level who cook and drive meals to homebound seniors.

      […]

      Mulvaney said many of the social programs that were being funded by the grants have not lived up to their missions and deserve to be cut.

      “Meals on Wheels sounds great,” Mulvaney said, adding “we’re not going to spend [money] on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”

      He said Trump’s spending plan delivers on the promise he made during the campaign, to cut wasteful spending.

      “You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place,” Mulvaney told reporters. “And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually going to be used in a proper function. And I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.”

      Mulvaney also took aim at the school lunch program, which he said was enacted to improve the education of low-income students. Those results have not materialized, he said.

      “They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? I mean, that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school,” Mulvaney said. “Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school… And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”

      So, I guess this is the official return of “compassionate conservatism.” Oh, wait – what? Oh, that beeping noise is just the sound of the truck with the load of BS getting ready to dump on us.

      What does Mulvaney propose we do about seniors who aren’t getting enough to eat? Or children who would go to school hungry or go home hungry? When is the last time Mulvaney missed a meal?

      Mulvaney is an insult to our intelligence. The dog-whistle of “the single mother of 2 in Detroit” is busting out my eardrums. I guess it sounds better than what he really wants to say, that it isn’t fair to ask the hedge fund manager who just got a 7-figure bonus to pony up one more cent so a senior citizen can have a hot meal. That’s who Mulvaney’s decisions are protecting. It could not be more clear that these people don’t give a rat’s a$$ about the poor. One almost gets the feeling they really would just prefer that people who actually do benefit from these programs should stop bothering the rest of us who work for our money with their stupid hunger pangs or their drafty, unheated apartments, or whatever it is poor people “suffer” from because they don’t work hard enough – or something. It has to be their own fault, right?

      And I’m so glad to know we won’t be spending any more money on that stupid climate-science thing that Mulvaney has declared to be a waste of time.

      For what it’s worth, here”s the complete list of what is on the chopping block.

      Read it and weep.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        I can’t believe I didn’t see the mother of all heart string tuggers–Headstart– specifically mentioned in the list.

        The fact is that it’s impossible to find anyone who does not acknowledge the epidemic of waste, fraud, abuse and redundancy in federal spending. The trouble is, when someone goes looking for it, it can never be found. Everything is essential. Are you prepared to challenge any of the assertions of ineffectiveness or duplication about the programs slated to be cut? I know I’m not.

        How many of those who are now bemoaning the barbarity of these cuts championed the use of tax dollars to build a luxury professional sports stadium for the poor billionaire owners or grease the skids for a new walmart at the expense of Main Street, endeavors only possible due to endless blank check federal “programs” employed to do the heavy lifting, and creating a budget agita that perpetually threatens things like Social Security, Medicare and public education?

        As for the “arts,” I’m sure I’d rather have the do-gooder billionaires like bill and melinda gates meddling there instead of creating mutant mosquitoes and “cutting-edge” vaccinations.

        Boo hoo. Politicians will now have to choose–the Milwaukee Bucks or Meals On Wheels and after school programs. It’s the job they signed up for and it’s been a long time coming.

        1. Anne

          If states want to sell bonds to raise money for sports complexes, I don’t have a problem with that. I do have a problem with givebacks on property taxes and other sweeteners that take money from areas of need (I also do not like the way sports teams and companies blackmail states and cities into giving them money to get them or keep them).

          I do think we have to decide who we are and what kind of country we want to be, and the choices our governments and politicians are making would seem to indicate that they’ve already decided there’s no benefit to treating us well.

          In terms of what is and isn’t effective or efficient, I have a hard time believing that our new director of OMB really knows, either, and given that he has said this budget was put together essentially going off Trump’s speeches and tweets and interviews, I think for “not efficient” or “not effective” you could substitute “we don’t care about that so don’t even bother telling us you have studies that show otherwise.”

          1. JTMcPhee

            I , for one, DO have “a problem” with “states” giving common wealth to sports franchise owners in the form of bond funding, or plain corrupt GIFTS of billions of dollars, to antitrust-exempt, filthy-rich franchise owners. I expect you know where the P&I payments on those bonds come from, right? A pretty small percentage of the population, mostly from the 10 or 5% and up, get any use and benefit out of these ego palaces with their “Skyboxes” and $10 hot dogs and ridiculous ticket prices. Like one of the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays said, claiming the “right” to breach their contract with the last set of local rulers who gave them a $500 million stadium on what had once been poor-folks neighborhoods, and grab for another billion from us local yokels for a “new, world-class stadium,” “The new stadium will be a place for the rich to go and be noticed. The poor can stay home and watch the games on TV.” The “investment” was deferred by the recent depression, but they are persistent, these grasping carpetbaggers. The Rays owners live in the Hamptons, and got enough from selling their systems for generating novel derivative products to as I recall it Bear Stearns just before that failure, that they could BUY THEIR OWN GOODAM STADIUM WITH CASH ON HAND. But of course that’s not how it works, now is it?

            How do YOU make up part of the “we” that in any way gets to decide what kind of country we have to live in? As you indicate, the people who take the legitimacy we hand them at the polling place and use it to crush more wealth out of us and drive us faster toward the cliff, have already taken the bribes from the Elites, and we mopes have pretty much ZERO input into what those decisions are or even the set of choices the rulers have to select from.

            Please don’t get people to start thinking that issuing state bonds (“tax anticipation,” mostly, and from a tax base and state budget that already has been skewed in the screwing direction) is an ok way to “raise money for sports complexes.” Several of the last big stadium rackets were actually funded by the rich folks and “business community” (sic) in their locales. Still a huge waste, and let us remember where the wealth of corporations comes from…

        2. wilroncanada

          The politicians will choose the Bucks, because that’s all they are ever looking for. Then they’ll take a little more out of the kitty put aside for the handicapped in order to develop a propaganda program to prove to the proles that what they have (mis)chosen will be of great benefit to the community.
          And then they’ll collect their (tax deductible) campaign money from those public-spiritedd plutocrats.
          Ah, well.

      2. Anne

        I should add that it isn’t the feds who are eliminating Meals on Wheels; what this federal budget is doing is eliminating the Community Development Block Grants to the states. These CDBGs are often used by the states to help fund programs like Meals on Wheels, which in addition to receiving some of its funding this way, also has other sources of funding.

        But the bottom line is that with less funding, programs like MoW will have to increase their outside funding if they want to maintain their current level of service – the alternative will be having to reduce the number of people it can help.

        For Republicans, the beauty of both block granting, and eliminating of block grants, is that Republicans can take the position that the decisions about how the states use the money, or the decisions states make about what programs to cut or eliminate is not being made in DC, but in state houses and legislatures.

        The shame of it is that in the grand scheme of things, the amount of money that is being “saved” by cutting these CDBGs is very small, especially in relation to the differences some of these programs are making in people’s lives. It is far less expensive to make sure low-income seniors are well-nourished than it is to cover the cost of the medical consequences of not getting enough to eat. It is much less expensive to feed children who might otherwise not get enough to eat than it is to deal with the consequences of being too hungry to learn. Growing brains and bodies need nourishment, and there are consequences to not seeing that children get it.

        Where is the discussion about the fairness and compassion of asking the taxpayers to continue to fund what is already – in my opinion – a bloated, inefficient and wasteful MIC? I can tell you that I would be much happier about my money going to feed seniors and children, to fund the arts, to assist the poor in paying for heat, than I am about the government choosing, in my name, war and blood and violence that has failed to make anyone safer, over participating in providing people with a good standard of living that includes clean air and water. I am not happy about funding being eliminated for the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Initiative, for example.

        This budget is mean and mean-spirited, utterly lacking in compassion as I understand the meaning of that word, and apparently accurately reflective of the character and mindset of the people who put it together.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I don’t know what they are thinking with more military spending.

          Are they thinking one last battle by the elves, the dwarfs and men against the bad guys before the elves leave this Middle Earth?

          Then, it’s swords-to-plowshares time?

        2. wilroncanada

          Ann
          The code behind their platitudes is simple. For seniors it’s “Go Die!” For undernourished or malnourished children, it’s “see you at the the jailhouse door in a few years.” Your incarceration will soon be adding to GDP. Ironically, they will be kicking the costs down to mostly Republican state governments.

          We have the same problems here in Canada. Governments at all levels have difficult choices, I realize, but, because of 200 years of hyperindividual brainwashing, they don’t see the difference between investment in the future, in the case of children, or plain human decency in the case of seniors.

          So the soup kitchens, foodbanks, flophouses, and tent cities will continue to increase, where the poor (mostly) help the poor.

      3. Katharine

        Or gnash your teeth, which according to the anthropologist-dentist of my youth may have been something our ancestors did to sharpen them up prior to going into battle (such interesting times those routine checkups used to be).

        Mulvaney is an ignoramus. Even the American Enterprise Institute acknowledges some of the benefits of the school lunch program:

        https://www.aei.org/publication/school-meals-an-important-income-and-nutrition-support-for-low-income-children/

        See also:

        http://www.nfsmi.org/documentlibraryfiles/PDF/20080612091850.pdf

  3. Linda

    Angela Merkel meets with Trump today. Hope it goes well. CEOs from BMW, and Siemens are accompanying her. Couple hours of talk, a working lunch with the CEOs, the usual joint presser. No fancy dinner. A long way to come for a short day.

    Guardian

    Friday’s schedule includes a lunchtime roundtable conversation with the CEOs of Siemens, BMW, industrial parts manufacturer Schaeffler, and a group of apprentices undergoing the dual vocational training system provided by these German companies in the US. All of this is intended to convince Trump that Germany is benefiting his country in ways that cannot always be weighed in cash.

      1. FreeMarketApologist

        Are they ‘du’ friends? I doubt she’s extended the invitation, so to him, she can only be ‘Frau Merkel’.

      2. Vatch

        Since he calls Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”, maybe he’ll call Angela Merkel “Brünnhilde”.

  4. Lupemas

    Just to share.

    I made the mistake of going to a “going forward, fighting back” local democratic town committee sponsored event last evening in the generally affluent town I live in because I wanted to talk about things like Ranked Choice Voting and making our town a sanctuary town (I’m on that committee and the people there are more tuned in) and How Houston succeeded in actually electing local dems big time in that city with effective, long term grass roots work
    ( http://harpers.org/archive/2017/03/texas-is-the-future/ ) and how we really need to get out there and find people to run for office who aren’t like what we have now. (I’m also not sure there will be an honest election anytime soon). I’m no longer a dim but I’m on their list to keep informed. Can’t stomach the party’s greed and arrogance. Did I mention I live in the one-party state Massachusetts (dims rule – and a state house that is run by 2 people)?

    I am still very down about the meeting so I’m just whining here. I was already in shock about the budget cuts that will make even more lives miserable at best and kill even more people than Bush Clinton Bush Obama Trump have already done. Oh and there were several comments about how much everyone missed Obama; they really really wanted HRC. (retch). I left the meeting with a feeling of even more doom than I was feeling before which was pretty bad. There wasn’t a glimmer that perhaps the dim party should take a hike and that something new has to happen. Same old same old – I should have known from “going forward, fighting back” – totally meaningless – just a way to get more money out of people for the meaningless things the dims aren’t doing.

    Why I thought I could share what I knew at the meeting was delusional. I was way out of the mainstream of that meeting. I did manage to get some ideas out there but I was shut down by the pervading we need to work harder for the dims. Everyday it’s worse and worse. And I don’t find being with most people reassuring.

    1. DJG

      Lupemas: Think of the Democrats as a Fan Club. That is how they have been acting for some time. You have the Hillary Fans. You have the Best President Ever Obama Club.

      It is like attending a Star Trek convention, in a way. Unless you like Star Trek, and most of us do, you wouldn’t have much to say or many expectations of the results.

      It is a problem that the Democrats are supposedly a political party with power. But intellectually the Democrats now operate at no higher level than a fan club.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Okay so basically, the left is Trekkies who know Voyager was by far the worst Trek*, but the Democrats like Voyager, a show where the eye candy was by far the best character (along with the Doctor). Janeway much like Hillary was constantly reinvented to fit a different command style each week, sometimes in the same episode.

        1. Vatch

          the Doctor

          Here at NC, he could say:

          Please state the nature of the economic or political emergency.

    2. Eclair

      My condolences, Lupemas. And, much empathy, since my experience has been so much like yours. And, I live in Colorado. It’s all, we need you to volunteer to stuff envelopes and do data entry. While the ship sinks.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It’s “we need you.” Data entry and envelopes can easily be done by regular committee members, but they might have to miss Maddow. My guess is the same committees whine about how young people don’t come out anymore either.

        Data entry and whatnot do need to be done, but the people who did this kind of thing weren’t there to be in a club but to achieve results. Local committees are dominated by the “whine and cheese” crowd.

    3. Marina Bart

      I’m skeptical about Our Revolution in many ways, but there’s a lot of evidence that grassroots OR groups are active and uncontaminated by this nonsense in many places. The only thing keeps me from having panic attacks about the Democratic Party in California is the Berniecrat takeover (which is not yet a real takeover, but made very, very serious in-roads), which was managed to a great degree by the Berners on the ground using the OR system to communicate and organize.

      See if there’s an active OR group in MA near you. There might be.

      Remember that the most important thing to do right now is vote out all corporate Democrats. Every person you stop from giving the DNC money helps. Every person not shanghaied* into voting for them “because Trump” helps. We won’t get real change until the Democratic establishment is defenestrated from the party wholly and utterly.

      *Do I get to continue to use such flavorful slang, or is it racist? Not snark — I’m really asking. Some slang terms based on ethnic slurs are still in common parlance, and some are verboten. Is there a useful standard to apply?

    4. Jess

      Along the same lines I went to a fundraiser Wed night for Greg Palast’s investigative fund on election fraud. Setting was a large home and grounds in trendy Santa Monica, with Paula Poundstone as the warm-up act and Jackson Browne closing the festivities with a short set of 5 songs. Audience was the usual collection of well-off progressives who adore the local Pacifica station which provided the host. Two interesting things:

      1. Palast delved into the specifics of the Cross-Check plan that 29 states use to purge voters who are — allegedly — also registered in another state. Seems that the registration criteria don’t need to be identical. For example, Roger Johnson in SC is considered the same Roger Johnson in Michigan even if their middle names are different and/or one is a Sr, the other a Jr, or a III. Not surprisingly, there is a column for BLA, which indicates that the voter is black. And no birthday comparisons, either. Just the first and last names.

      2. At one point Palast cut me (and probably some other people) off before I could even ask the question by saying, “And don’t ask me where the Democrats are on this. I’ve been looking for them but they’re nowhere to be found.” I told him later, “You realize the Dems in office don’t want to win elections, just hold on to the seats they have so they can keep fundraising off the “fight”, right?” He didn’t answer but the look in his eye told me I hadn’t told him anything he didn’t already know.

      (BTW, food spread was pretty good.)

    5. tongorad

      It’s almost as if the one thing that could resurrect establishment Dems would be a phenomenon such as Trump. Funny how that works. All roads lead to neoliberalism. Always.

      Neoliberalism is less like a conspiracy and more like cancer.
      Game over, man, game over.

  5. dontknowitall

    On “The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart” link… I think the fallout from the false claims of Russian influence in the Trump campaign is even worse than MOA says, because they now have inoculated Trump against any future claims of influence by any party (for instance, Saudi) but also inoculated the Russians against claims of election interference should they actually do it for real in the future.

    And now Maddow’s idiotic story on Trump’s income tax from 12 years ago has worked to Teflon coat him on the income tax issue too. Dems and their friend in the media have managed to pile disaster on top of defeat.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      More importantly, it served to keep the Democratic establishment in power. In 2006, Democrats never jumped in polling until after Murtha came out against the Iraq War. They were as unpopular if not less popular than Republicans.

      The ilk of Pelosi are still in charge. Team Blue is going nowhere with those bums at the helm.

    2. Ignim Brites

      Potentially much worse than that. Given Russian contacts with Clinton campaign and collusion with the MSM , these elements, with the deep state, are subject to charges of conspiracy to subvert the election and stage a coup.

    3. Pookah Harvey

      There are two Trump-Russia stories that are being conflated. Trump campaign -Russian intelligence colluding to beat Hillary story that establishment Democrats have tried to push to cover their butts for having a terrible political campaign The other story is Trump financial ties to Russian oligarchs that seems to have some legs. The financial story is pretty much being neglected due to the MSM concentrating on the Establishment Democrats’ bullshit. See the Real News Network discussion with Bill Black on possible Trump business ties to Russia.

      http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=767&Itemid=74&jumival=18670

      1. Marina Bart

        Why exactly should I care about Trump’s Russian billionaire buds, though? I mean, how are they materially worse all the other billionaires controlling the country and the planet?

        It’s so much easier to just be opposed to rule by billionaires. Of course, that means opposing both the Democrats and the Republicans.

        1. Pookah Harvey

          No argument, but it is nice to know some of the particulars in how we are being screwed. Especially by “our” president.

  6. RenoDino

    The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)

    Instead should be called “Mission Accomplished.” Now it’s time for personal due diligence to inoculate those concerned about repetitional damage. It never made any sense from day one so it can’t fall apart now.

    However, it is established fact in our so called culture that the Russians did it so pursuit of real evidence can only be counter productive at this point.

    Trump is now calling for a nuclear arms race and the end to nuclear treaties with Russia. That’s what I call a successful agitprop campaign, all without one scintilla of proof.

    1. Olga

      I think you’re right – the main point was likely not to prove some sort of russkie/Trump collusion, but simply to put pressure on Trump and disrupt any possibility of an emerging detente. In that sense, the whole stupid, corrupt, and cynical campaign worked as planned. Brilliant! (Years ago, I never could understand why NYT was devoting endless journalistic real estate to stories about Clinton’s Whitewater… now it seems clear that it was mainly a way to pressure him to do what TPTB wanted… it worked wonders.)

  7. Steve H.

    Words abused are truly terrifying,
    So it’s good the courts are clarifying.
    Will they tend an issue that bothers me?
    So judge, please, the f’in’ apostrophe!

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I like your poem! It’s funny and captures the essence of how law works these days.

  8. Linda

    From the news you can’t use dept.

    About the BBC interview with Korea expert Robert Kelly, you either thought it was fun and hilarious, or you thought it was a waste of time when there are so many truly important world events to focus on. I’m pretty sure there are more who thought it was funny and fun.

    The Wall Street Journal says the video had been viewed more than 84 million times on the BBC Facebook page as of last Tuesday. And, that’s just the Facebook page, and last Tuesday, lol. That’s not where I saw it (several times).

    A deputy editor at the WSJ tweeted that their BBC Dad story is the most viewed story in WSJ history. That just cracks me up and adds to the overall amusement.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      And the Guardian, being the Guardian, fretted over the assumptions some people made that the woman was a nanny, not his wife and had seemingly endless articles wondering if that makes everyone racist.

    2. Eclair

      I did a mind experiment here and imagined an Asian women doing the interview … and a white male scuttling in to remove the two children. Or, a white woman being interviewed, with an Asian man doing the child care.

      Would the video have gone viral with people rhapsodizing, how cute! Or would the network have said, woman professor obviously can’t keep her children under control, we’ll find some man to interview next time.

      I don’t know.

  9. Frenchguy

    Not sure if it has already been posted:

    Mortgage Relief and Fear Gauges

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-17/mortgage-relief-and-fear-gauges

    From Matt Levine:

    Liz Hoffman and Serena Ng went and answered one of the great weird questions of modern finance, which is: How does Goldman Sachs Group Inc. do consumer mortgage relief, given that it doesn’t have a consumer mortgage business? You may recall that when Goldman announced its $5.1 billion settlement for crisis-era mortgage misdeeds last year, $1.8 billion of that number was not a cash payment to the government but rather “consumer relief.” That usually means modifying mortgages so delinquent borrowers can stay in their homes. But … what mortgages? Whose homes? “Here’s some good news if you have a mortgage with Goldman Sachs,” I wrote at the time, because you didn’t.

    But now there’s an answer! It is, as you’d expect, sort of dumb and baroque and not how you’d design a system from first principles.

    Over the past year-and-a-half, the Wall Street giant has become the largest buyer of severely delinquent home loans from mortgage giant Fannie Mae. The firm has acquired nearly two-thirds of $9.6 billion in loans the agency has auctioned, representing unpaid loan balances of $5.7 billion, a Wall Street Journal review of government records shows.[…]

    The naive way to think about “consumer relief” is like, a bank lends a person $100, and the person runs into difficulty repaying, and the bank says “well okay we’ll call it $80,” and the person repays $80, and the bank has lost $20. “Consumer relief” is a relief to the consumers, and a cost to the bank. But that’s not quite how the cash flows go here. “Goldman has paid between 50 and 90 cents on the dollar for the loans … with an eye toward restructuring them by reducing interest rates, lengthening the term of the loan, or forgiving some of the debt outright.” But if you buy a loan for 50 cents on the dollar, you can afford to forgive 40 percent of it and still make money. The “loan workout process can take one to two years, and buyers can make between five and 15 cents on the dollar above what they originally paid.”

    Those are just the normal economics of the loan-modification market. But for Goldman the calculation is a bit different: If it buys a $100 loan for $50, writes off $40 of principal, and resells it for $60, it doesn’t just make $10 in profit, it also digs itself out from $40 of consumer-relief liability to the government. That’s apparently why it buys such a large share of Fannie Mae’s delinquent loans: “Because Goldman is getting credit toward fulfilling the terms of its settlement, it can afford to pay more.”

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trump Stands by Wiretapping Claim After Senate Panel Leaders Say They See No Evidence WSJ

    Trump’s Wiretap Claims Are Bogus. But He’s Still Onto Something. Bloomberg

    The first seems counter-intuitive for Trump to do.

    Digger a deeper hole? An ace up the sleeve?

    With respect to the second, is there one claim (WSJ) or many claims (Bloomberg)?

    1. Knot Galt

      It appears the departing Obama Administration did a massive info dump internally in a last ditch effort to get Trump on something. What the Obama action exposed is that many unsuspecting people are part of an out of control overarching surveillance program.

      The article concludes; “This would mean that the Obama administration had effectively short-circuited the FISA process by checking to see if Trump associates were picked up incidentally on existing surveillance, and then disseminating the take widely within the intelligence bureaucracy. That’s not the same as ordering — without court oversight — a targeted wiretap on Trump Tower.”

      Essentially, Obama acted illegally in his last days in office?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If that is what his administration did, that would be using the government for political purposes, even if they congratulated themselves for being smart and ingenious to get around the FISA process.

        Smart, but not wise.

        We would need more than an apology from Obama to Trump here.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trump’s Words May Haunt Him as Travel Ban Appeal Promised

    Can’t they put Trump under oath and ask him what his intent was then and his intent is now (because the mind chang…well, evolves)?

  12. craazyboy

    Someone thought it was a good idea to blow up a $300 drone with a Patriot missile Quartz (Re Silc). Boom. Ka-Ching. Boom. Rinse and repeat.
    _______

    HAHAHA. Another $3 million on the way to the Tucson economy!

    Go Army!

    That’s a risk reward ratio even Pete Peterson could love.

    Our dirty little secret – We are working on low cost drone swarms. HAHAHAHA.

    Pentagon – we’ll own your ass!

    BWAAAA HAHAHAHA

    1. Carolinian

      Does the Patriot missile even work? Might as well have it not work against drones as anything else.

      1. optimader

        A Patriot Missile debris field falling back to terra firma would (I speculate) be more destructive than the potential payload of a $300.00 drone—at least if considering the payload being to conventional weapon.
        Radioactive “dirty dust”? The energy of a Patriot missile explosion (I speculate) would ironically spread it further…

        Bioweapon? meh… Air dispersion notoriously ineffective.

        So , WTF? rifle practice..

      2. a different chris

        Yeah I wonder at the effort behind even making it hit the thing. I suspect that drone was about as high as it could get to start with, and pretty likely not moving unless movement actually helped the Patriot (if you carefully move away – straight line – then it has more time to adjust whilst “chasing” you).

        At least the story itself is about how this actually does make the opposite point – one $$$$ missile, one cheap drone does not a good ratio make. I wish they would have applied that to Afghanistan.

      3. craazyboy

        It had some growing pains in the mid 80s. Could have been launch/guidance system related. That did get worked out, I believe. We did sell a part to the missile system proper, and the impression I got was they performed very well. We sold a shitload of parts too, and some orders needed an export certificate – so they had strong foreign sales. I think we allowed someone, Taiwan I think, to assemble the missile for their own use. Foreign sales is usually a good sign the product is well received.

        Also, there is a Patriot and then came a Patriot 3. The “3” version is sort of the super version. They were trying to get it to be able to knock down incoming nuke orbital ICBMs, which travel at about 15,000 mph. I think they had reasonable success with that too, tho if you have an incoming multiple warhead, you are still screwed in a big way.

        This is why I had my biggest snort of the day in months this morning when I read some jarhead shot down a $300 drone with one. I love this place.

        1. Grebo

          It had some growing pains in the mid 80s. Could have been launch/guidance system related. That did get worked out, I believe.

          The system calculated its trajectory with floating point numbers, one of which drifted over time. The Israelis figured this out after it missed every scud in Gulf War I. The workaround was to reboot frequently!

          1. craazyboy

            Ah. That rings a bell. My actual industry work involvement ended around 1989 (we beat the rooskies!!!) and I quickly transitioned back to the industrial world. So my knowledge of events after that time is based on whatever sporadic MSM news got my attention somehow.

            The other foggy memory I have, I think from the later 90s era, was Israel also got a battery of the Pat 3s that we had attempted to make into an anti-ballistic missile capable system. I don’t have wild Hollywood expectations for the real world efficacy of these. I think the scenario that’s worthwhile attempting to defend against is the “rogue nation” [Iran] gets their first nuke warhead, of the single warhead variety – NOT MIRV – and shorter range ICBM delivery vehicle. Then say you have a 50% chance of hitting it on the way down. That means you launch 3 Pat 3s to raise the chances to the 90% range. Given the alternative, things look good at that point. But the tech window closes over time and this scenario becomes obsolete.

  13. Vatch

    Incidentally, the Weather Channel, which bought Weather Underground and promised not to change anything, is now eliminating member blogs.

    I wondered who might own the Weather Channel, so I looked it up in Wikipedia, and I found this:

    The Weather Channel is an American basic cable and satellite television channel, owned by a consortium made up of The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and NBCUniversal.[1] Its headquarters are located in Atlanta, Georgia.

    Blackstone and Bain. The pieces are all fitting together.

    1. tegnost

      yeah, I’ll stick with the NWS website and it’s commercial free forecast discussion if I want to read a web log about our imminent weather, which is, of course, exactly where weather underground gets their info (there’s unisys too, not sure who owns that)

    2. Hacker

      Wunderground and the data gathering/forecasting parts of the Weather Channel were sold to IBM. It is IBM that is now making the changes. Look at the bottom of the page at wunderground.com there is an icon that says “The Weather Company, an IBM business.”

      The primary business value to IBM is gathering weather data that can be processed by its AI, Watson. The blogs probably didn’t help that endeavor as the unstructured data was too sparse to validate.

      I am a long time Wunderground subscriber and have a weather station reporting.

      1. Toolate

        I used to love Wunderground here in Hawaii but the past 6 months or so the forecasts have been highly inaccurate compared to nws whereas before they seemed much better. No idea why. Maybe their model doesn’t work well in these strange weather times or maybe they no longer care.

        1. Portia

          I noticed the same thing–I listen to local NWS phone prognostications now, much more accurate

          1. Knot Galt

            In Oregon, Wunderground completely missed several ice storms that hit the area. This, after a few years of being almost 95% correct in predicting weather conditions.

            Thanks for the info about NWS. I’ve dialed into that now.

    3. susan the other

      wow. thank you Vatch. Most interesting. Per the “climate” via the weather info whether obfuscated or not: Just this – I used to live at 4500 ft above sea level – 30 years ago, when winter still gave my toes frostbite under a down quilt, we moved to 7300 ft above s.l. In those days, the 80s, the winters were still super cold at night. We awoke to eighth-inch frost creeping in from the corners of the windows and thusly for at least 3 months in winter. Today, at this altitude, we sleep with the windows cracked about an inch. It no longer freezes over our water glasses. In fact, this winter, the warmest night-times of them all, I actually woke up and took my sox off. Unheard of. It is definitely warmer and the biggest difference is night-time warmth. Which is enough to melt the poles. My feet have been telling me this for about 10 years. Too hot at night.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Bernie, not a Democrat, is simply a Democrat.

      The Democrats are run by Republicans who weren’t going anywhere in the GOP for one reason or another. Republicans hate Democrats, hence “Democrats” hate Bernie.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      Through all the garbage, the Guardian thankfully still has a few genuine progressives like Timms writing for them.

      Some of the recent Guardian articles on Sanders have been unintentionally hilarious. The whole ‘hey, this Bernie guy looks good, didn’t he run against Hilary at some time years ago? What was that about?’ tone. They really are clueless sometimes.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Sanders has said that it is not about him.

      Still, he is the only one. It’s all about him, for better or for worse.

  14. voislav

    RE: Trump at the Pump: Car Companies Move to Create Fuel-Efficiency Double Standard

    This is a non-starter for the car companies for several reasons. In addition to California, 12 other states (including large markets like New York) and District of Columbia use California regulations over federal ones. The development cycle for emissions technology is very long. Vehicle design is frozen 3 years before hitting the market, so the car companies already have the 2020 model year pretty much wrapped up and no changes are possible. So the earliest change they could make would be for the 2022 or 2024 model year (2022 is typically a model refresh not a new design, so this is less likely).

    So the only companies that would get relief are the ones that are currently cheating on the fuel economy (and there are quite a few of those). For the engineering standpoint this will have no impact whatsoever, the vehicles will be rolled out as planned according to the old regulation.

    1. Vatch

      As I understand CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy), if the car companies don’t meet the standard, they have to pay a penalty. Maybe the penalty is tacked onto the prices of the less efficient cars, but I’m not sure. But if the Trump administration lowers the CAFE standard, then the car companies will be able to sell more of the less efficient cars without paying a penalty. Yes, they will still be selling the already designed efficient cars, but they won’t sell as many of them — and they will sell more SUVs and large sedans.

      Please correct me if I have misunderstood how CAFE works.

      1. RMO

        Vatch: There’s also the “gas guzzler tax” if a car (trucks are exempt) has a combined EPA city/highway rating of less than 22.5mpg. CAFE is determined by a production weighted average of the fuel economy of all vehicles a manufacturer produces for the U.S. market in a model year with a penalty of $5.50 per 0.1mpg below the target multiplied by total production if it’s not reached. This is somewhat simplified as there are different standards for passenger vehicles and light trucks and there is a “CAFE credit” thing which seems to allow the manufacturers to trade with each other or defer/transfer year to year which completely baffles me at the moment. I remember reading that GM kept making cars like the Cavalier at a loss just because the effect the sales of the small cars had on CAFE made it worthwhile overall.

        I’m actually amazed at how good fuel economy can be with a car nowadays. Last summer my Honda was in for two day repair and I got a courtesy rental. Because of availability I got bumped up to a Mustang GT convertible. It got about 24mpg overall in fairly evenly shared city/highway driving. That’s BETTER than the seven year old Element I own. Makes me wonder what sort of fuel economy a car could get if we were able to make a car with the sort of performance lack of safety features as an old Citroen 2CV. 60mpg plus?

    2. jrs

      One fear is that chaos central, um excuse me the Trump administration and the R Congress, will try to go after the California standards as well. California was given the right to have it’s own standards I believe in the clean air act itself (probably because smog was so bad in L.A. at one time). But the lunatics at the helm could even take that away.

      Listen F-ers: we didn’t vote for you so keep your goddamned hands off California and it’s environmental standards at least ok? (yea I know CA has environmental problems of it’s own like a frack-happy governor etc., but the standards are unequivocally a good thing)

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Trump Takes a Gamble in Cutting Programs His Base Relies On NYT

    Trump’s budget cuts to domestic, aid programs draw Republican scorn Reuters

    More counter-intuitive stuff.

    Straight in-your-face betrayal? Does the NYT or Reuters include his rational in their articles or maybe Trump is just a politically suicidal mad politician…not a triangulating guy or a 11 dimensional chess grand master capable of getting re-elected while their bases becoming more and more deplorable.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s closer to disinterest in the job and handing off power to guys like Ryan. Trump knows “jobs, wall, and immigrants” slogans.

      Obama was so far to the right the GOP doesn’t have much they can do without eating into the bones after sequester, but the GOP has pressure to act after attacking Obama for so long.

      The Obama “recovery” didn’t filter to state revenue collections which are largely based on economic activity, and Republicans in Virginia (all over) went crazy with bizarre bills, some making it through, largely because they can’t bring in spending to local districts and have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Between deficits and corporate masters, the Republicans need to look like they are fighting the good fight, but they are full of too many nuts to recognize Paul Ryan was largely Mitt’s VP choice to make Mitt look brilliant and the embodiment of human compassion by comparison.

      1. jrs

        Yea I kind of think after a bunch of mostly bad appointments Trump is fading into the background.

        But if the R congress is running domestic policy, and the usual suspects (intelligence agencies, parts of the military etc. – those driving the empire) are running foreign policy then we are in trouble here.

    2. Ranger Rick

      If anything, I think there is a benefit: people are being educated by these screaming headlines that the US government is deeply involved in every part of their lives to an extent that would surprise even the most politically astute. When did federal funding get this important (over and above state and local funding)?

      Of course, when I go to parse the articles themselves, I see that NYT/Reuters are spinning this as direct attacks on the electorate. You get gems like this statesman complaining that his pork got rescinded:

      Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, criticized Mr. Trump’s decision to cut $300 million from a program that aims to protect Lake Erie. “I have long championed this program,” Mr. Portman said, “and I’m committed to continuing to do everything I can to protect and preserve Lake Erie, including preserving this critical program and its funding.”

      Looking at the NYT budget breakdown reports remarkably few details on what’s actually proposed to be cut despite the big scary negative billions shown in red. In case you want to look at the actual (early) budget proposal, you can find the PDF after a bit of web sleuthing here. I find that the proposal does a much better job of marketing itself than the media has been doing.

    3. FluffytheObeseCat

      Trump said he was going to be a “hands off” executive. He appointed a cabinet full of noxious, fiscal super-righties and plutocrats – men who are younger and, at this point, more aggressively engaged in self-advancement than Trump. They wrote the inputs to this proposed budget. Those inputs were collated and refined by Mulvaney, a ‘kick the poor and call it pro-business’ fiscal conservative.

      We are seeing what one would reasonably expect from this group of men and this ‘leader’.

  16. allan

    How to Lose Millions and Still Get Your Bonus [Bloomberg]

    A couple of U.S. Steel Corp. executives had to hit a low bar to get a bonus last year. How low? Their divisions could have lost millions of dollars and they’d still get a fat payout.

    Shareholders have long complained about companies that set easy compensation targets for their executives. U.S. Steel’s below-zero benchmarks are especially glaring, but they suggest that the decades-long drive in corporate governance to tie executive pay to companies’ financial performance seems to have met its Waterloo in the highly-volatile commodities sector. …

    U.S. Steel has received less than 80 percent shareholder support for its executive compensation program in two of the three most recent advisory votes, regulatory filings show. That’s under the 92 percent average for Russell 1000 companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. U.S. Steel investors have been complaining that long-term incentive awards don’t correlate with company performance, according to proxy statements.

    Of course, one simple way to avoid dramatic year-on-year changes to pay targets is to get rid of bonuses and pay a flat salary. But few compensation experts advise that. They say bonuses provide a short-term incentive for executives to deliver a stronger performance than their competitors. …

    Compensation experts who keep on getting hired, no matter how wrong. Weird.

  17. justanotherprogressive

    Re: “The Wrongest Profession”:
    Well, of course, but Baker makes the same mistakes that every other economist these days seems to make.
    Perhaps my forays into anthropology/archeology has taken me into some strange areas with regard to my Economics thinking, but it seems that all Economics today is heavily slanted towards the economics at the top. Perhaps that is why Obama could think the economy is improving when so many of us see that it is not.

    Economics today uses as its starting points things like GDP, Capital, Average Wealth, trade, etc., and every one of these metrics is heavily weighted towards what the wealthy do. Perhaps that is the wrong starting point for the study of Economics. Perhaps the study of Economics should be started at the bottom, like the analysis of the available labor of a country. Certainly it is no secret that a company like Catepillar could throw as much capital as they want at that pile of iron ore, but it won’t turn into a salable product without labor. McDonalds can throw as much capital as they want at that pile of meat and vegetables but it won’t make them a dollar without labor.

    The trouble is that labor has been tricked (or coerced) into absorbing its own losses in its value. But these losses really aren’t accounted for in the study of Economics. Certainly the losses of businesses are always accounted for when we study economics – so what about labor’s very real losses? Can we really ignore or minimize that cost and pretend that it doesn’t affect how we see Economics? (I’m seriously wondering that when the fast food joints automate all their low paid work, just who do they think will buy their products? I haven’t seen a lot of Rolls or Bugattis parked under the Golden Arches lately……)

    I’ve been looking for hope amongst the new Marxists and others (even Piketty starts at the top in his analysis of Capital) but apparently even they are trapped into top down Economics thinking…..perhaps it’s time for a new paradigm in Economics – then perhaps it will move away from being the “wrongest profession”……

    1. Ruben

      If you say this in a non-dilettante kind of way, then check the Cambridge Journal of Economy, several papers on micro foundations from a labour perspective.

      From their website: About the Journal

      The Cambridge Journal of Economics, founded in the traditions of Marx, Keynes, Kalecki, Joan Robinson and Kaldor, welcomes contributions from heterodox economics as well as other social science disciplines. Within this orientation the journal provides a focus for theoretical, applied, interdisciplinary, history of thought and methodological work, with strong emphasis on realistic analysis, the development of critical perspectives, the provision and use of empirical evidence, and the construction of policy. The Editors welcome submissions in this spirit on economic and social issues including, but not only, unemployment, inflation, the organisation of production, the distribution of the social product, class conflict, economic underdevelopment, globalisation and international economic integration, changing forms and boundaries of markets and planning, and uneven development and instability in the world economy.

    2. Romancing The Loan

      Try John Michael Greer’s “The Wealth of Nature.” Very, very bottom-up economics.

    1. Vatch

      They could really flip the bird to the progressive wing of the party by appointing Joe Manchin to the DNC leadership. He’s already part of the Senate leadership, and he voted for Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, Steven Mnuchin to be the Treasury Secretary, Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA, Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, and just about everyone else that Trump nominated.

  18. Bugs Bunny

    Re SS Marchers in Latvia

    TASS noted that two of the marchers were arrested and taken away in a “paddy wagon”

    Happy Saint Patrick’s day! Erin Go Bragh

    1. optimader

      HAHA paddywagon! Isn’t that a Delorean??

      What a great eponym slur that has been added to the amusing American- English lexicon!

      I want reparations for the defacto enslavement of irish immigrants. :o/
      mmm

      OK maybe not our proudest moment, nor for the Democrat Party “Proto-Identity Politics” nor NYC at large (that faction of my peeps were in Windsor, OT at the time..)

      http://fusion.net/story/280986/a-complete-history-of-the-phrase-paddy-wagon/
      …The seething poverty understandably angered the Irish. The following decade, much of that anger was let out in what became known as the Draft Riots of 1863, an event which has widely been reported as the single largest civil disturbance in U.S. history.

      In short: a draft for the northern side of the Civil War was instituted after President Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation. To escape the draft, residents could pay the equivalent of about $5,000 in today’s money to exempt themselves—money the Irish didn’t have. At the same time, the Democratic Party had “warned New York’s Irish and German residents to prepare for the emancipation of slaves and the resultant labor competition when southern blacks would supposedly flee north” after the war, reads the University of Chicago book In the Shadow of Slavery: African-Americans in New York City.

      The result was four days of rioting and clashes with the military, with crowds largely made up of the Irish, according to New York Times accounts, resulting in about 120 dead. Much of that violence was directed at the city’s black population, with several blacks being lynched by the rioters.

      1. Eclair

        Regard the so-called Draft Riots as another triumph for the Elite. They once again succeeded in getting the poor fighting amongst themselves and killing each other off. The rest could be thrown in jail; too bad the Big E’s hadn’t thought out the money-making opportunities of for-profit prisons at that time.

        The Irish immigrants were like tinder waiting for a spark; imagine escaping mass starvation in your occupied homeland where English landlords regarded you as a bit lower than their pedigreed horses and cattle, then arriving in a new country, where you are now looked upon as fresh cannon fodder in a civil conflagration not of your making. Jaysus, Mary and Joseph!

        Full disclosure: My second great-grandfather, who emigrated from Ireland during the famine years, had to register for the draft in June, 1863. He was a Schedule II, being over 40 and married. Alas, he was killed shortly thereafter in an accident at the Rutland, Vermont marble quarry where he worked. “Hit by the cars,” is given as his cause of death. And, he had already managed to father nine children.

      2. Marina Bart

        So the Democratic Party indoctrinated Irish immigrants in American racism. I did not know it was that explicit and direct.

        I don’t recall anyone mentioning this history when Bostonians of Irish descent protested school busing in the 1970s. 100 years would be nothing to them.

        The past is prologue, indeed.

      3. craazyboy

        I think in Latvia they say, “the marchers were arrested and taken away in an ‘Irish wagon’”.

        Google translate probably screwed up.

  19. Alex Morfesis

    Judge issues fishing expedition
    “war-rant” to lazy or crazy police dept in the bleach white suburb of Minneapolis, commonly known as edina…sooo…

    Some lazy credit union with a half a billion in deposits, gets a call from someone claiming to be “douglass” who asks them to wire 28 grand to a bank of america account…

    Person is asked to confirm their identity by ? sending in via fax ? A copy of their passport for ID ?

    Even drunken uncle billy at the bailey building and loan wouldn’t be that lazy…

    Guessing the 28 grand was not for buying a used ironing board…

    Hmmm…so the police cant follow the money ?? is the person who got the money refusing to give it back and insisting the person in the passport photo was the person they sold the antique ironing board to ?? And what they sold…28 grand is hopefully not some fake rolexes and the police are oblivious…the mystery “victim” who ended up with the cash…28 grand is a lot of amnesia here…

    They “googled” the fake passport photo…so they dony have access to drivers license photos ??

    & how does criminal someone just “happen” to know this person has a credit union account without the usual less than 500 bux that most americans have ??

    Sounds like someone got hired as a detective because he was related to someone…beyond just a fishing expedition…sounds like pure incompetence…

    Was looking to see what the local shopper vanity press might cover, but a quick search of the sun current shows the opening image of their website has a photo of what appears might be most of the police force with their two police dogs…

    stasiland…bleach white town…cant have any of those Minneapolis kinda people roaming or wandering thru…

    Sadly, there is no mothership to beam me off this planet…and alcohol, etc doesn’t thrill me…

    although the town did give us two mets ballplayers and the apparent only black family gave us kirby puckett…so it can’t be all bad…

  20. Olga

    Loved the Oxford comma article – finally know why I’ve been doggedly using the comma before “and.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I was taught, beaten into me and drilled into my brain that the comma was not needed.

      1. Antifa

        I was bound upon the rack, keel-hauled by pirates, and flogged thrice daily until I swore a blood oath to use the Oxford comma every time, on sure and certain pain of loosing the hounds of hell upon up my mother’s soul should I fail.

        The following autumn we started second grade, and the troubles started all over again with semi-colons; the weaker children sought refuge in math, physics, or wrestling rather than soldier on with English grammar.

  21. KateF

    Maybe someone can educate me a bit about the whole Yellen/interest rates thing. Even LEFT writers, economists and such, quite often say that raising interest rates is bad for working people etc. But what about interest on savings? Haven’t the low rates for so many years robbed billions out of savings accounts for the working and middle classes (and the poor) and put that money into the pockets of banksters and such? I never quite understand the argument for lower interest rates. I mean, I get that if I’m buying a house or car or getting a credit card, then a lower rate is better. But frankly, credit cards are a horrible thing to use or to need nowadays (and the elite want us to be enslaved by this kind of debt), and frankly, I know no one who can afford to buy a house or a car. Still, I understand that benefit…but not the savings angle. I really would like to understand the argument better.

    1. Yves Smith

      The problem is most people don’t have savings in the form of savings accounts. They have bonds or are in funds that use bonds as investments.

      So yes, on the one hand, people have not been getting much interest income. Ed Kane estimates that this has taken over $300 billion in income out of the economy.

      But all the bonds issued in recent years have been at low interest rates. So when interest rates go up, the price of those bonds will go down. When things have renormalized, savers will get more interest, but the transition costs mean they won’t come out ahead for a while.

      And that’s before you get to the fact that what matters most is real interest rates, not nominal ones. Borrowers have been losing out because interest rates are lower than inflation, by design. The Fed has been explicit about that. Savers want/need interest rates on safe investments to at least match inflation.

      1. KateF

        Thank you. That’s actually quite clear for someone like me who doesn’t understand the finer points of economic matters. I’m assuming (probably not a good idea on my part) that when you talk about “bonds or are in funds that use bonds as investments” – you’re referring to mutual funds, IRAs, 401k’s and all that sort of working class or middle class holdings? So my husband has an annuity and a pension through his work – even though he’s a very blue-collar, union guy – so higher interest rates from Yellen could adversely impact him down the line. Or my daughter who’s a teacher even? Additionally this will impact wage growth. Thank you for throwing some clarity my way. I’m glad I asked as I’ve been shaking my head over this for a long time.

        1. craazyboy

          The most common thing would be a managed bond fund of the PIMCO variety. Then you get the management fee to pay too – which ranges from 3/4% to 1.5% a year. A 5 year Treasury bond last I checked paid about ZIRP. So, add in your favorite number for inflation and calculate your real losses.

          Bond commissions are too high for small investors, so hard to cut out the middle man, except you can go to Treasury Direct and buy $30K a years in US treasuries straight from the Treasury commission free.

          Then when rates rise, bond prices go down. You will have to wait until the bond goes to maturity to get face value back. If you need the money sooner, you lose. But you’re used to that by now.

          Annuities are a different animal, but they need to generate interest internally before they can pay you, so they have the same problem.

      2. JTMcPhee

        Yves, “most people” do not have savings or investments of any kind, let alone deposit accounts in banks, or stuff like bond funds. Just fyi.

        1. wilroncanada

          Thanks JT
          I was just going to make a similar comment, fyi.
          Most people I know have no “investments” of any kind.
          If they have any money at the end of the month, they transfer those few dollars from their chequeing account to a a “savings” account, which probably never gets beyond $500. Something always comes up to take most of their meagre “savings.”

    2. lyman alpha blob

      The rationale behind raising interest rates is often to impede inflation. Of course for the masters of the universe at the Fed, the inflation they are so concerned about is wage inflation more than anything.

      In that regard, raising rates to stop wage inflation would be a bad thing. Wage inflation is also what allows working people to pay off their mortgages quicker as money is somewhat devalued. You might by a house for $200K for example while earning $100K as a family. Fast forward a decade or so and your house might be worth $300K on the open market and you might be earning $125K now. But you now have the advantage of still only having to pay your mortgage based on what the house was worth when you signed on the dotted line and you have more money to do so. Inflation is generally good for workers as it makes debt easier to repay but bad for bankers because they are repaid in devalued currency.

      Raising rates also makes the interest payments on new mortgages more expensive and will slow down the housing and refinance industries. It would also slow down the huge and unsustainable increases in property values (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) – one of the reasons property values are going sky high is that sellers feel that since you don’t have to pay so much interest due to the low rates, you can afford to pay a higher principal. And raising rates too much could put a whole lot of people underwater on their mortgages as home values decline. This in itself wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the extended period of abnormally low interest rates which has caused so many people to pay way more for homes than what they’re really worth.

      That, plus what Yves said (even though I am one of the people getting royally screwed on cash deposits right now).

      I really do think a rate hike is necessary at some point but due to the gross mismanagement of the economy in recent decades, doing so would be a bitter pill that no one really wants to take right now. So among other things we’ll continue to have a real estate market that runs more like a casino.

    3. Jeremy Grimm

      I’d like to add to your questions about the rate increase. How much of the consumer debt and small business debt is pegged to a rate that will slide up as the Fed increases the interest rate? Are student loans at a fixed rate or variable rate and what about small business loans? I doubt many of the small debtors received or expect an increase to their income streams.

      1. craazyboy

        I’m still waiting for the 12/2015 quarter point to show up in my interest checking and also the savings account.

        Student loans fixed at 8% – breath of relief from that crowd no doubt.

        Small biz loans? Prime plus 3? Quarter point don’t move the needle.

        Any other consumer or biz loan is similarly high. Credit cards still 10% and up. Unless you want to play the home equity loan game.

        Large, solvent corps can issue bonds at 4%. Which they have been doing by the boatload for almost 10 years now. At some point someone says no more to that. But not the Fed, apparently. Nor common stockholders, tho I’m certain they will regret that one of these years. It’s a sure way to break the GFC 666 record on the downside.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          Your comment makes we wonder how many ARMs have been issued in recent years during the ZIRP period (any why anyone would be gullible enough to take one out when rates are at historic lows).

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          Thanks for the information. I’m glad the already high student loan rate won’t be affected as the Fed moves the rates up.

          The quarter point is negligible but the outcome of the trend might not be.

  22. Alex Morfesis

    Mutti probably thought showing don trumpioni his old stassi file might give her an upper hand…not so much…he refused to shake her hand for the cameras…this will be interesting…

  23. Alex Morfesis

    Havas (#6 global advert agency) flips google the bird and pulls All its client advertising from google and youtube in the uk (250 million/yr) and is considering a global freeze/pullback…told you this fake news stuff was a cover to deal with ad problems percolating and little but solid websites gaining traction in the eyes of the advertising world…

    yahoo…oood(& aoled & myspaced & earthlinked & ad nauseam)

  24. Alex Morfesis

    Lamberto EMERGENCY: looks like, at least on my cellphone, the video ate the water cooler

  25. lyman alpha blob

    “Based on the information available to us…”

    Those are some weasel words right there. The CIA has already been caught spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

    But this time I’m sure they are telling them absolutely positively everything they know. /s

  26. grayslady

    It’s not just your mobile phone. I tried viewing in two different browsers on my laptop, and the video, or whatever it is, destroyed everything that followed. No ability to comment on Water Cooler to request a correction.

  27. grayslady

    Something weird is going on with the NC website. My comment on Water Cooler was supposed to be a reply to Alex Morfesis.

  28. Portia

    I can say that in Vermont, cutting programs like LIHEAP is not going to look good for Trump, as Vermonters turn to burning their furniture to keep warm. My supplier is not going to be happy anyway, because to lower my costs, I will have to start buying bark slab bundles from the lumber yard.

    1. Pat

      Call me naive, but this is a time when I believe that a twitter account was hacked – as McDonald’s claims. It makes no sense for them to insult Trump especially from an account that had been strictly business promotion previously. And believe it or not I would have said the same thing if there was a McDonald’s twitter slapping Obama around and bemoaning the loss of Bush. Or Sanders and Clinton. It just doesn’t make sense.

  29. susan the other

    the Whanganui River’s new status. That’s the coolest thing we humans have managed to do in over 2000 years – the entirety of recorded history. Long live the Whanganui! Long live us all.

  30. Jeff W

    I need to think through my position on “intent” more carefully, lest I join the Scalia crowd, but using Trump’s words on the trail as evidence of intent, as opposed to puffery, seems odd to me (especially because framing a “ban” as a “Muslim ban” that somehow doesn’t include all Muslims also seems odd). And even given the words, does intent matter? Lincoln, for example, lacked to intent to “end racism” when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So what?

    (1) I think it’s the reverse: to view the words as “puffery” rather than as “evidence of intent” would be further away from the reality. When an official Trump campaign press release says “…Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States…”, there’s really no reason to view that as puffery rather than as a bona fide statement of intended policy. (Whether it’s evidence of some intent somewhere is different than saying it is evidence of the intent of this current executive order that was struck down.)

    (2) A “Muslim ban” to me means a ban that is directed at people who are Muslim as Muslims, not necessarily that all Muslims are affected by the ban.

    (3) Intent matters, obviously, even in the presence of facially-neutral words. For example, the entire voter ID apparatus is directed at people who are likely not to vote Republican—it is set up precisely so as to make it less likely that that segment of the population will vote. That all the legislation happens to be framed in neutral words does not vitiate its intent—in fact, the neutral language is intended to hide its intent.

    (4) Not having the intent to do something, as in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, is a different situation than having the intent to do something. One can’t necessarily draw the same conclusions from a statement’s inverse.

    1. Oregoncharles

      On (2) – I think there’s a logical problem. Presumably, a “Muslim ban” would bar people because of their religion; this measure does not. It bars them because of their place of origin. And because those six countries are far indeed from all Muslims, you can’t really say it’s the same thing lightly disguised.

      That doesn’t mean it makes sense, just that it is not, in fact, a “Muslim ban.” You could also call it a “guilty conscience ban”: they’re places the US had bombed. Excluding Iraq, of course.

    2. hunkerdown

      Yet Obama’s campaign position on renegotiating NAFTA was intended as political rhetoric more than policy intent, as Canadian investors that took the spectacle at face value needed to be reassured by back channels. I don’t suppose a more consistent principle than in-group membership might be available for evaluating a Spectacle.

  31. allan

    Does This Biotech CEO Have A PhD? [Buzzfeed]
    Ian Betteridge to the white courtesy phone.

    You could be forgiven for thinking that Gabriel Otte, the CEO and cofounder of a well-funded biotech startup called Freenome, holds a PhD. Articles, conference programs, and other websites identify him as a PhD. Freenome’s website even identified him as “Gabriel Otte, PhD” — that is, until BuzzFeed News began asking questions about his degree, and the honorific disappeared last week. But he does not have a PhD.

    Like many startup founders in Silicon Valley, Otte dropped out of school. In his case, he left a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and started Freenome, which is creating a blood test for early-stage cancer.

    Moreover, Otte’s departure from school was not amicable, BuzzFeed News has learned. In fact, he left under a cloud after a professor says she raised questions about some of his research. …

    From September 2011 to October 2014, Otte was a graduate student in the Genomics and Computational Biology group, according to university spokesperson Katherine Baillie. His research there does not seem related to what Freenome is now developing: a test to catch cancer before patients know they’re sick, based on telltale bits of DNA in a blood sample, instead of a more conventional, costly, and invasive tissue sample. …

    It has not published any data in a peer-reviewed journal. …

  32. Andy

    This “Meals on Wheels” reduction is really bad. I’ve been involved with this program, and the people that depend on it are truly the most needy.
    This whole world is becoming upside down. Tax cuts again for the wealthy?
    Taking much needed food away from the poor?
    Not even full throated outrage?
    This is not a world anyone should wish to live in, most assuredly not passively stand.
    Puck the Foor! Un. *ucking. real.
    Talk about “dystopia”.
    20 million people are expected to perish in the famine in Africa, again.

  33. Expat

    I say let the Market solve environmental problems! If air and water are polluted, then people will pay for clean air and clean water provided by McWater Inc. or Trump Hot Air. Who cares about dumb animals dying from pollution!*

    *By “dumb animals” I mean Americans, of course.

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