December 30, 2016

Trump in Transition (v12)

I'm using a slightly larger version of the f-bomb picture for this post, because he's dropping an even larger one than usual on the country.

Donald Trump has thought it funny, all along, that Russia was hacking Americans to try and influence the election.

He asked them to hack Hillary Clinton's private email server, or suggested they had, or maybe he was just being sarcastic.
Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press... By the way, they hacked -- they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted because you'd see some beauties there. So let's see.
When it was brought up during the campaign that Russia was hacking us, Trump said it could have been anyone.
I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don't know who broke into DNC.
Russia hacked America, specifically the DNC and the Gmail account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's ill-fated campaign chair. They did not hack Hillary Clinton's private email server. We asked them to stay out, we sent back-channel warnings, President Obama spoke personally to President Putin, and they did not listen.

When asked about the Russian hack and the news that we were getting close to announcing a response, Trump offered his, ahem, nuanced take on technology.
I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.
We announced sanctions, and took who knows what other actions behind the scenes that we were not told about. The actions by the Obama administration were praised, albeit backhandedly, by Congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Ryan noted
While today's action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration's ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world...Russia does not share America's interests. In fact, is has consistently sought to undermine them sowing dangerous instability around the world. 
Similarly, McConnell also complained about the lateness of the action.
Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services are a good initial step however late in coming. As the next Congress reviews Russian actions against networks associated with the US election, we must also work to ensure that any attack against the United States is met with an overwhelming response. 
Donald Trump's response? Again, we have more important things to worry about.
It's time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.
Aw, shucks, Mr. #NotMyPresident, thanks for thinking about me, and for worrying your pretty little head about America, and please don't let getting those facts disturb your #MAGA mission or your #BAHA mission or your #TakingCreditforStuffYouDidntDo mission.

Those little slogan-thingys are bigly important I'm sure, so we wouldn't want you to lose focus over having to, you know, take an intelligence briefing or anything, or get acquainted with the facts of something like an attack on our country, no, we surely wouldn't.

And, aw shucks, we're sorry that you're so busy chatting up your friend Vlad on social media, and we hope this won't put a dent in your little bromance, we really hope it won't.

Yes, that's right.

America announces sanctions against Russia, and Trump tweets a proudly fawning message when Putin responds by saying he won't do anything now, but will wait to deal with Trump.


I don't know what you'd call that, but in my book, that's a big ole f-bomb to America right there. 

December 28, 2016

The Update Desk: An Ignoramus for Christmas

This just keeps getting better and better, this Carl Paladino 2017 Wish List.

You remember his comments, right? He was one of the Buffalo-area businessmen asked to complete a little survey for Artvoice, an artsy-newsy-entertainment mag. Paladino wanted President Obama to die of mad cow disease, and Michelle Obama to go back to being a man and live out her life in a cave with a gorilla. Good stuff, there, from your school board member, right?

Then, after some backlash when his comments went bigly viral, he added fuel to the fire by issuing a lengthy comment, again to Artvoice, about his 'deprecating humor', explaining his reasoning.
...he attacked the press; he attacked the Obamas as two America-hating progressive elitist ingrates; he mentioned hundreds of fired soldier generals and admirals; he talked about Michelle's hatred of America; Barack's yellow-bellied cowardice; unvetted immigration of Muslims; drug pusher commuted sentences; the silent-majority middle class rising up against Democrats and Republicans alike; the end of an era of mainstream media; a fraudulent shadow government and a lazy-ass president; the end of the progressive movement; Trump being called unfit for office; and a president doing nothing for black children.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe he didn't really believe what he said, and that he really thought he was being funny, until you read his explanation on why he made the comments. I mean, if a person really thinks that the President and First Lady are America-hating progressive elitist ingrates and all, you would not expect that person to apologize for his sense of humor, right?  And I would not demand that he apologize. As I noted the other day, we have a First Amendment which allows a person to make a total ignoramus of themselves - no apology required.

Apparently the backlash was all too much for him, though.. Disavowal by the Trump team, for whom Paladino was a chief ally. Slapdown from our Sonofa Guv Andrew Cuomo, who crushed Paladino in the gubernatorial race in 2010, and from OnJoanie Mahoney, a Republican Paladino accused of being a liberal. Mahoney called upon others to also speak up or, in effect, agree with Paladino by their silence, and she, like many others - dozens of others - referred to his comments as racist. And so, even though he did not have to, Paladino apologized.

Sort of. I think. In a statement on his Facebook page, he poured out his heart and soul. Take a  look:
I never intended to hurt the minority community who I spent years trying to help out of the cycle of poverty in our inner cities. I apologize. 
If he had actually intended to apologize, that would have done the trick. It responded to the hurt many in the minority community may likely have felt, hearing an old white guy talking about the death by horrible disease of the first African-American president, and the gender and gorilla comments about the president's wife. But he did not stop there.

About the minority community, he added this.
I thought about them every day as I fought against unqualified and incompetent superintendents, administrators, teachers and School Board members, unfair union contracts, broken homes and children who can't get the education they need to break that cycle of poverty because our school system is a failure, for reasons that needn't be. 

And then he sort of blamed Obama and Syria, saying that he got the survey at the wrong time.
(It came at) an emotional moment after I had just listened to Obama's statement that he regretted the slaughter in Aleppo that, in fact, resulted from his failed and cowardly foreign policy. I view Barack Obama as a traitor to American values...
And then he sort of blamed being a human being, after starting to blame the media.
I wanted to say something as sarcastic and hurtful as possible about the people who are totally responsible for the hurt and suffering of so many others. I was wired up, primed to be human and I made a mistake, I could not have made a worse choice in the words I used to express my feelings.
Which makes no sense, if he was in fact trying to be as hurtful as possible, right?  And then he sort of blamed the Board of Education, or the teacher's union.
It's all too easy to make mistakes when you're emotional about the rigged teachers' contract by an incompetent Board of Education majority who sold out the school district as payback to teacher's union leader Phil Rumore for his election support. They couldn't care less about the children of Buffalo.
But no, that second slam of his School Board counterparts wasn't the reason, either. Nope -- it was an accident!
I did not mean to send those answers to Artvoice, Not that it makes any difference because what I said was inappropriate under any circumstance. I filled out the survey to send to a couple friends and forwarded it to them not realizing that I didn't hit "forward"I hit "reply." All men make mistakes. 
Well, that stinks. I mean, most of us have sent emails we wish we hadn't, or responded to all when we shouldn't have, or forgot to step away from the keyboard and clear our heads before actually sending an emotional email, right?  Of course, I don't think most of us who did that then add insult to injury by doubling down, proudly doubling down and taking credit for our words, do you? Only to then apologize/defend/excuse the words by adding more fuel to the fire?

After going back to a more humble declaration of stupidity, about having to explain to his daughter how he could be so stupid, he lit a match.
What is horrible is watching my family and friends react to the rabid hordes of attacking parasites we now call activist progressives... And for the vanquished progressive haters out there spewing their venom at anything that is a reminder of their humiliating defeat, irrelevance is tough to chew on...For the mean-spirited, disoriented press trying to find grounding and recover legitimacy on my back, pray that you still have a job next year because you have lost all credibility with the people... I certainly am not a racist. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 
Damn -- that is one emotional, wired up, primed to be human excuse of an apology of a poor substitute for standing up for what you believe in, who's passing on to his teen-aged daughter that having the courage of your convictions only matters until you get yelled at for having them, at which point the best thing to do is load up your word bazookas and fire in every conceivable direction at once, not worrying about who else you antagonize in the process.

The Update Desk: Grains of Salt (v9): More Fitzing Around

I love when I can update two old stories about our DA-for-Life Bill Fitzpatrick in the same week.

You may recall earlier this year Fitz fired Gigi Potocki, a victim assistance coordinator in his office, after several administrative charges were filed against her by one of the DA's investigators.  Seems Potocki had been assisting a woman who alleged abuse against the investigator's son, which did not sit well.  An arbitrator determined Potocki was wrongfully terminated and was entitled to back pay of some $70,000 and get her job back.

Onondaga County appealed the arbitrator's decision, and at the time of the original post back in May, Potocki hadn't been paid or rehired. The County had offered health benefits and a year's salary in exchange for a non-disclosure statement, something she didn't want to do.

At the time, Fitz was his usual quotable self, questioning "why she'd want to return to a place she says is so terrible" and he offered this, referring to the retirement of Potocki's corroborating witness:
Former Investigator McCarthy, after 40 years of public service, has decided to collect his pension and retire. Who can blame him when he has to deal with crap like this.
To which I wondered 
Why do we keep re-electing Fitz, when we have to deal with crap like this?

Well, here we are, seven month later, and we have an update. According to an article from a few days before the holiday, Potocki came out the winner - again.
The Onondaga County District Attorney's office must rehire a victim's advocate who says she was fired for trying to help a victim, a judge has ruled.
Gigi Potocki must be reinstated with back pay dating to July 2014, when she was fired over allegations of misconduct, State Supreme Court Justice Spencer Ludington ruled last week.
She expects to receive about $115,000 for the 2 1/2 years she's been out of her job as the DA's victim assistance coordinator. 
In his decision, the judge noted that the County had "refused to comply" with the arbitrator's decision, something that still concerns Potocki, who hoped to be back at work soon.
They ignored the arbitrator's order to make me whole and resume my employment. What kind of example are they setting? They are supposed to set the example and be the pillars of justice in our community. Do they laws they uphold not apply to them?
Only time will tell.

The County has the right to appeal Ludington's decision; the County's attorney was awaiting direction from the DA's office.

December 27, 2016

The Update Desk: The SU Bookstore

This one is the story that will never die, I'm afraid.

It was back in July of 2012 that I first wrote about the bookstore/fitness center/retail complex that was proposed by the Cameron Group LLC for a corner of the Syracuse University hill. The first post was on the question of offering a 30 year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT agreement. It was actually the second time that vote was being considered; the first time, it was pulled in the face of certain failure.

The second post, on the same day, was announcing the not-surprising outcome - approval of the deal by a "bitterly divided" council on a 5-4 vote. To get the approval, there were some binding attachments to the deal, including minority hiring requirements for the developer, and fitness programs for minors, to be developed by SU. If these requirements were not met, the PILOT could be revoked.

Fast forward to April 2014, when we next heard about the bookstore project - or, I should say, the lack of a bookstore project.
The Syracuse Industrial Development Agency's directors asked their lawyer last month to look into the status of the $20 million project after noticing no construction occurring at the project site at the northeast corner of University Avenue and East Adams Street.  The same agency declared the developer, Cameron Group LLC, in default of its tax deal in November because construction had not started by the August 21 deadline included in the deal.   
Say again?  The project was given only the second 30-year PILOT ever offered by the SIDA (Carousel Mall/DestinyUSA being the first) and nothing was going on at the construction sight? For the second time? Ah, but everything's OK, we were told. The developer promised to get the building completed on time, ready for opening in June of 2015, and there should be no concern, honest everything's fine.

Then, in June of 2014, SU fired Cameron Group, noting that
The developer has been unable to adequately address the University's concerns or demonstrate a credible ability to successfully complete the project as it had contractually agreed to do so.
Shortly thereafter, the university and the developer filed suits against each other; settlement negotiations began, and bike lanes remained blocked.

In August 2015, the University took steps to restore the construction site to its pre-development status, making it pretty again, opening up the bike lanes, laying sod and the like.

And now, we learn that SU is suing Bond, Shoeneck and King, their lawyers, for failing to include a clause in the contract with Cameron that would have required them to act a little more aggressively to get everything in order.  The missing clause notes that "time is of the essence" and, had it been present, SU feels they would have been able to fire the developer for lack of progress without being liable for anything.

And had time been of the essence for the developer, rather than for the Common Council who felt a special session was necessary to get this thing approved in the first place  back in 2012, we might have a thriving facility up on the Hill. Instead, we've got no development, no $64K a year in taxes, no new bookstore, no fitness programs for city kids, and so on.

We've got nothing.

December 26, 2016

The Update Desk: Grains of Salt (v8)

Back in May, I talked about the Onondaga County DA-for-Life William Fitzpatrick and his head-scratching, head-spinning decision to open an investigation into Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's administration.

The reason for the investigation? Fitzpatrick thought the Mayor was trying to influence public opinion against a local developer in a lawsuit. COR Development, once a local success story, went around the city's development agency to the county's development agency, got a tax deal, and the mayor was not happy. She sued and lost, but Fitz - not known to be a fan of the mayor or her police chief, for that matter - wanted to protect us from any undue influence from a politician.

He is one - a politician, of course -  and one who is not shy about trying to influence public opinion either in his official capacity as DA, or in his political capacity as, say, a member of our Sonofa Gov's Moreland Commission on ethics, or as, say, a boss getting involved in employment matters in his office.

Anyway -- back to our investigation,which one judge called a "fishing expedition": seems it's over, and there will be no findings or indictments, or even a report that we'll ever see, it appears. Here's the update from the local paper last Thursday:
A politically-charged investigation by the Onondaga County district attorney looking for misconduct at Syracuse City Hall has fizzled out without producing any allegations of wrongdoing.
District Attorney William Fitzpatrick's investigation of Syracuse Mayor Miner and her political allies produced no criminal charges or reports of malfeasance. 
According to the article, the Grand Jury records have been sealed, so we will likely never know for sure what happened, nor will folks, including at least two common councilors, officially have their names cleared.

That may be enough for Fitzpatrick, but is it enough for the elected officials? And is it enough for city taxpayers? Or County taxpayers who ultimately paid for this investigation?

No comment from Fitz, or from the Mayor.

December 24, 2016

I Want an Ignoramus for Christmas

Lori Van Buren/Times Union photo
Buffalo NY has the Buffalo Billion, and they have the Buffalo Bills, and they have the Buffalo Buffoon, Carl Paladino.

Paladino ran for governor of NY and lost; he led the state Republicans for a while; he's currently on the Buffalo School Board; and he led the charge for Donald Trump here in the Empire state, having his picture taken with the POTUS-elect as seen here, and even going so far as to threaten New York Republicans who did not agree with him.
The Buffalo businessman said in an interview that he will use email to rally his supporters against New York's Republican members of Congress who have remained neutral in the presidential race.  Paladino...said the emails will become increasingly personal in the coming weeks, targeting individual members of Congress.
How very Trumpian of him -- personally attacking people, even people in your own party, who were elected by people, and who are supposed to serve, their actual constituents - not Carl Paladino. And Chris Collins, the former Erie County Executive and current representative for parts of Western NY and the Finger Lakes in Congress - and member of the Apprentice transition team - chimed in back in back then, too.
I know Carl Paladino has been aggressively pushing all of you to endorse Trump. And I know he has indicated he will start 'attacking' NYers who don't endorse Trump. You may or may not care, but he does have a formidable email list.
Yeah, Collins is a stand-up guy, helping threaten fellow elected officials, and yeah, that Paladino, he's a heckuva guy. 

Paladino was selected by ArtVoice, "Western New York's smartest news, arts, and entertainment," along with several others, to answer a few questions about what they wanted for 2017. Here are two of the questions, and Paladino's answers.
  1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?  Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford (sic). He dies before his trial and is burned in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady (sic) cellmate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her. 
  2. What would you like to see go away in 2017? Michelle Obama. I'd like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.
The other two questions asked who should run for mayor in Buffalo, to which Paladino appeared to answer Donald Trump, and about a proposed $50M Amtrak station, which Paladino believes is unnecessary, and to which he responses including that we are the laughingstock of America because of the intelligence of our elected leaders. And, remember, he is one, as a member of the School Board...

Not surprisingly, there's been a lot of backlash on his responses to the first two questions -- they were so out in right field that the Trump team had to distance themselves, if you can believe that. And you can believe that, because I read it on Breitbart.
Carl's comments are reprehensible and they serve no place in our public discourse.
Wow -- is that kind of like being sent to bed without any supper by your billionaire father?

Equally unsurprising is Paladino's doubling down in response to the response to his ignoramusness, which included calls for his removal from the school board, accusations of racism, and even a beat-down from St. Bonaventure University, his alma mater.
It is true that a university is a place that encourages political discourse, but a civil discourse that, as Lincoln said, speaks "to the better angels of our nature." Such racist and demeaning comments have no place in civil society. As in the America we all love, so too at St. Bonaventure - we're better than that. 
Paladino took 14 paragraphs, not counting the opening "This is in response to my comments published in Artvoice" and the closing, shown here, to make his case.
And yes, it's about a little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time. Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don't like my comments.
In between those two statements? Well, let's see: he attacked the press; he attacked the Obamas as two America-hating progressive elitist ingrates; he mentioned hundreds of fired soldier generals and admirals; he talked about Michelle's hatred of America; Barack's yellow-bellied cowardice; unvetted immigration of Muslims; drug pusher commuted sentences; the silent-majority middle class rising up against Democrats and Republicans alike; the end of an era of mainstream media; a fraudulent shadow government and a lazy-ass president; the end of the progressive movement; Trump being called unfit for office; and a president doing nothing for black children.

Now, I have to say, if you didn't get all of that out of Barack Obama having relations with a cow and Michelle Obama going back to being a man and living in a cave with a gorilla, you're not alone. I didn't get all of that either - not even close.

I appreciate and hold dear our God-given right to speak freely. Oh wait - the God-given right is the one to freely hold guns, sorry. Anyway -- I truly believe we have the right to say what we want to say, even when what we say makes us look like an ignoramus. And so I'm personally OK with Paladino's choice to firmly cement his ignoramus credentials, in case anyone doubted that he was a card-carrying ignoramus already.

And, in the spirit of the holiday, I'm happy to be able to check one more thing off my Christmas list.

December 23, 2016

Trump in Transition (v11)

The Apprentice transition team has moved south for the winter, operating out of Florida now for the holidays.
Yesterday the team communicated a communication about the new White House Communications team from Palm Beach. The short announcement was chock full of communicators who will be handling communications for the President.
There will be at least four official communication people who are also all Assistants to the President: Sean Spicer, press secretary; Hope Hicks, Director of Strategic Communications; Jason Miller, Director of (regular) Communications, and Dan Scavino, Director of Social Media.

Noted the POTUS-elect,
Sean, Hope, Jason and Dan have been key members of my team during the campaign and transition I am excited they will be leading the team that will communicate my agenda that will #MAGA.
(As I write this, Sean Spicer is doing an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show which digressed into a talking-over-each-other-almost-shout fest,driven in part by Lauer's horrible interview style, to be sure. And I'm thinking to myself, that's exactly what we need in the White House press office -- a calming influence to help settle fears when administration members shoot off their mouths, shoot from the hip, shoot themselves in the foot, and all of those other Second Amendment-style metaphors, right?)

There's been some concern from media types, including the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), as to how the Trump administration will handle the press. Based on the campaign, it's not unreasonable to think that some media outlets would be kicked out of the briefing room, at least temporarily, until they act bigly nice to the notoriously thin-skinned Trump.

And, of course, there have been signals, maybe trial balloons, that the daily White House briefing may have outlived its usefulness, or at least that a shake-up may be needed. For example, incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus noted earlier this month that they might do away with the assigned seating in the briefing room, after stating that the seating charts came about during the Obama administration.
This was the first front row assigned seat issue, as I understand it, started in the Obama administration. In the Bush administration, you just took a seat, and I guess there were a couple of people that have had reserved seats. But for the most part, the more formalized reserved seating piece came in over the last eight years.
Except, of course, like so many things the leaders-to-be have said, this was incorrect.
The WHCA assumed responsibility for assigning the seats in the briefing room over the last two decades at the request of both Republican and Democratic administrations,w ho were mindful of the potential appearance of playing favorites if they assigned the seats themselves.
Perhaps we need one more person on the Communications team - the Assistant to the President and Director of Accurate Communications - who can come in behind the rest of the people in the administration and tell a little truth?

Priebus also noted
Look, I think that many things have to change, and I think that it's important that we look at all of those traditions that are great, but quite frankly, as you know, don't really make news. And you know, even looking at things like the daily White House briefing from the press secretary, I mean, there's a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we're looking at that.
Spicer echoed that 'doing things differently' message in his interview on Today, pointing out that that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are important as the administration wants to have more Americans involved in the process, like Trump's 40 million combined social media followers. And, of course, those are media platforms on which Scavino and Trump can communicate without having to have any interactions with reporters.

Trump, who hasn't held a press conference since July, didn't announce whether there will be an Assistant to the President and Director of Telephonic Communications with Fox News on the team, but I assume he'll continue using that as a key piece of his communications strategy.

Also not clarified was who will be the Assistant to the President and Director of Banning the Media, and if that person will also fill the role of Assistant to the President and Director of Determining Who in the Media Has Treated the POTUS Fairly and Nicely. or if the latter will need its own full-time person.

I'll have to go check Trump's Instagram account to find out.

December 22, 2016

Trump in Transition (v10)

Some additional appointments from The Apprentice to catch you up on from the past week.

There's former Texas Governor and occasional presidential candidate Rick Perry, who last week was tapped to be Secretary of that Department he wanted to eliminate, you know the one, right?

Um, oh boy, um, you know, the one that's all about peppiness, um, shoot. Not the Department of Memory, that's not the one. Heck I wish I had the energy to remember this stuff. Oh wait, is that it? Energy? Yeah, that's the one.

And there's the tapping of  Navy SEAL and one-term Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior, even though it seems, according to this report in Salon, that Zinke may have lied about his travel while a member of the vaunted SEAL Team 6, saying he was traveling for business when it was to remodel his house or visit his mom.

Or the fact that Zinke, who has a geology degree and two Masters' degrees, has an abysmal 3% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his supporting special interests over protecting the environment, making him yet another Trump appointee who seems to have opinions and principles in conflict with the agency he was tapped to run. But not to worry, according to the announcement from the Transition team:
America is the most beautiful country in the world and he is going to help keep it that way with smart management of our federal lands. At the same time, my administration's goal is to repeal bad regulations and use our natural resources to create jobs and wealth for the American people, and Ryan will explore every possibility for how we can safely and responsibly do that. 
At least we now know we don't need to #MakeAmericaBeautifulAgain - whew!

And then there was the announcement about a new White House National Trade Council (NTC),
The formation of the NTC further demonstrates the President-elect's determination to make American manufacturing great again and to provide every American the opportunity work in a decent job at a decent wage. 
And, we're told,
The mission of the NTC will be to advise the President on innovative strategies in trade negotiations, coordinate with other agencies to assess US manufacturing capabilities and the defense industrial base, and help match unemployed America workers with new opportunities in the skilled manufacturing sector.
Mind you, I think that "defense industrial base" would include Lockheed Martin and the F-35s which, back in 2011 we learned from this article in The Atlantic, cost more than Australia, or would they be excluded because #TweetingatDawnDonald just asked Boeing to give an estimate on a mess of F-18s which he thinks might be cheaper, since he already scapegoated Boeing into dropping the price on two Air Force One planes? Oh dear, my head hurts.

But is that what they mean by 'trade' council -- to 'trade' defense contractor A for defense contractor B? Um, no, that's not it.
The NTC will also lead the Buy American, Hire American program to ensure the President-elect's promise is fulfilled in government procurement and projects ranging from infrastructure to national defense. 
Unless, of course, see Lockheed Martin and Boeing.  But wait - that little-word, campaign slogan stuff, Buy American, Hire American (which, to my delight, is #BAHA) is not all there is to this.
The NTC will work collaboratively and syngeristically with the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, the Council on Councils, and the Domestic Policy Council to fulfill the President's vision of peace and prosperity through military and economic strength. 
Oops. I got carried away for a second, that Council on Councils doesn't belong there, sorry. Back to the real stuff.
For the first time, there will be a council within the White House that puts American manufacturing and American workers first, and that thinks strategically about the health of America's defense industrial base and the role of trade and manufacturing in national security.
So: a council to end all councils, except the councils it meets with supercalifragilistcally, to make sure our military/industrial complex is keeping us peaceful and prosperous, except for expensive military stuff? And to come up with cool new trade-deal stuff?

Two things come to mind. One, the POTUS-elect is the master of the Art of the Deal, so I'm surprised he would need a council to help him with deal-making.

And two, do these folks understand where our manufacturing jobs have gone, other than the ones in the military contracting field? Trump campaigned on this, but promises and facts are different things, according to an article in the Financial times.
The US did indeed lose about 5.6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. But according to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, 85% of these job losses are actually attributable to technological change - largely automation - rather than international trade. 
The think-tank found that although there has been a steep decline in factory jobs, the manufacturing sector has become more productive and industrial output has been growing.
 Don't buy the robots are taking our jobs part? Think there's something else behind it? OK.

Ask Trump why he makes his stuff in other countries, and why his daughter does. Is it because they want to make a bigger profit and that's easier to do that when the products you sell are made for hands full of pennies and sold for fists full of dollars?

Maybe it's education, or the lack thereof? We've seen reports for a while now about American factories not being able to fill jobs because kids getting out of high school, or even college, aren't capable and companies are unwilling to invest the money and effort in training them if they're just going to quit - or fail - anyway.

Or maybe, we just want to save money and would buy the cheap stuff at WalMart even if we were making enough money to buy the more expensive, American-made stuff?

Lots for the new NTC to think about, well beyond China and bad trade deals. Maybe the Council on Councils I made up earlier in this post can work on all that other stuff, so we really understand what we need to do to bounce back, other than ordering a few dozen more F-35s.

December 21, 2016

Grains of Salt (v18): Audits and Snowballs

Season's Greetings to one and all from Syracuse - the Salt City, the heart of Onondaga County -  where we know how to throw a snowball, a retirement incentive, and a great legislative meeting, I tell ya.

The snowball thing, that's obvious. I mean, we are the usual favorite to win the Golden Snowball trophy.

That retirement incentive, well, that's pretty obvious, too.

It doesn't seem possible it was all the way back in October that we first learned that the Onondaga County Legislature had somehow managed to include elected officials in the retirement incentive program designed to nudge a whole bunch of people into premature retirement to avoid as many as several hundred layoffs.

Our longest-serving county legislator, Kathy Rapp, announced she was retiring, with the incentive, a nice $10,000 of taxpayer money designed to save money, but that will actually cost us money, as we pay her the incentive and also pay her replacement, who will be appointed by OnJoanie Mahoney, our County Executive.

Rapp's last day was yesterday; she had a nice sendoff, got a plaque, and had the opportunity to give us some parting thoughts. She noted that "politics" is driving her out after 18 years. She liked the work, she said, but lamented that "trying to be right instead of doing what's best" seems to take precedence these days -- and the personalities, that too.

I wish her well in retirement, and hope she enjoys her two grandbabies. And I also just wish she hadn't taken the money. Because contrary to popular opinion, a politician is not obligated to take advantage of every opportunity that falls in their lap, any more than they're obligated to say, take LLC money if they think it's wrong that they're able to do so (our Sonofa Gov Andrew Cuomo) or to use campaign funds to buy steaks for people (DA-for-life Bill Fitzpatrick).

But she was right about the personalities, for sure, Which gets us to the throwing a legislative meeting I mentioned at the top of the post.
At a legislative meeting Friday, representatives from a pair of feuding county office showed just how hard it is to be in the same room with one another. What began as a presentation of financial data devolved into a shouting match during the meeting, belying long-simmer tensions between the county executive and the comptroller. 
Yes, the executive, the one who pretty much told us if we didn't like her ramming through her pay raise, we could vote her out.  And the comptroller, who filed a lawsuit over the raise. He won a procedural thing regarding the raise for the legislature, but lost the fight on Mahoney's own raise. It's been all down hill for a while now.

We all know how personally OnJoanie takes everything related to the Lakeview Amp, her pet project. Not a lot of people thought a seasonal concert venue, with several similarly sized competing venues up and down the Thruway, was a good idea for $50M in economic development funds  - but we were promised that it would work out. The first full year only making $150K seems a little low, but if the sales tax revenue and hotel room usage we heard about is true, we might do OK with it.

Is the comptroller wrong to question the finances of the Amp? Nope. Actually, he's right to ask where we might find the money owed to the county by the state for the 2015 Miranda Lambert concert, and where we might find the reports the county was supposed to have filed this year, per the legislature's request, or for a copy of the promoter's concert. Presumably he's asking for these in his official capacity as comptroller and guardian of county taxpayer dollars.

Could he find a better way to go about his mission to get, and audit, Amp financial activities? Sure thing. For one, there's that old adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar -- and Antonacci was practically spitting vinegar yesterday.

Maybe instead of doing that, he could challenge Mahoney to a snowball fight.

December 20, 2016

Trump in Transition (v9)

I've been neglecting the Trump in Transition (TiT) posts, sorry. Let's see if I can pick up where we left off.

I covered the once-a-racist Attorney General, and the public education dismantler, and I covered the guy who actually shared our secrets with foreigners, and I covered the climate change denier at EPA, and the public humiliation of Mitt Romney, who was paraded in and out of Trump Tower and a nice restaurant, only to be passed over for Secretary of State.

The man who was chosen? Rex Tillerson.

You mean, before the announcement last week, you had never heard of him? That's OK. Here's what you need to know:
Rex Tillerson's career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication, and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest and most respected companies. His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States. Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and he relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none. I can think of no one more prepared, and no one more dedicate, to serve as Secretary of State at this critical time in our history.
Feel better now? Well, he was an Eagle Scout. And he's got YUGE times to Vlad Putin, so he's got to be good, right?
In those roles (production advisor, president of Exxon Yemen and Esso Exploration, etc.), he was responsible for Exxon's holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea as well as the Sakhalin I consortium operations offshore Sakhalin Island, Russia.  
Miraculously, Tillerson was independently recommended by both Condi Rice (to Mike Pence) and Robert Gates (to Trump) a day later. The two are consultants to ExxonMobil, by the way - not that there's anything wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with how Saturday Night Live handled the subject.

There may be something wrong with Tillerson's personal gain if we, say, lift sanctions against Russia, and stuff like that, which will have to be addressed in the extreme vetting process.

Then there was our new ambassador to Israel, NYC bankruptcy attorney David Friedman.  Per the GreatAgain website announcement of the appointment,
With Mr. Friedman's nomination, President-elect Trump expressed his commitment to further enhancing the US-Israel relationship and ensuring there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligent cooperation between the two countries.
The announcement also noted that Friedman has "been a long-time friend and trusted advisor" to Trump. As in, he helped Trump with a casino bankruptcy or two.

According to an article in The New Yorker, he also writes for a pro-Israeli settlement website; is supported by the SILOTUS, Jared Kushner; believes the American embassy should be in Jerusalem; has said that President Obama is an anti-Semite, and has said that some liberal Jews, such as those who support a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, are worse than some during the Nazi era.
Finally, are J Street supporters really as bad as kapos? The answer, actually, is no. They are far worse than kapos - Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? they are just smug advocates of Israel's destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas - it's hard to imagine anyone worse.  
Naturally, as with every Trump appointment, there is a great deal of passion from supporters and detractors. And sometimes, there's some interesting insight, like this from the same New Yorker article.  Speaking to David Remnick, who wrote the article, Israeli philosophy professor Avishai Margalit said this about the Trump team.
Everything is an outlier. No one can predict anything. It's not as if there is a deviation and you try to explain it. Everything is deviation.You cannot rationalize it. It's a family business, and they treat the White House as a family business, like Don Corleone. He (Trump) doesn't feel that he has to please anybody. You bully everyone and see what happens. 
And that, my friends, is a fascinating take on how this administration is taking shape.

December 18, 2016

My Middle-aged White Lady Perspective: Winning and Losing

On the eve of the Electoral College almost certainly finalizing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election - I mean, there's about a one-in-a-Trumpzillion chance that they'll overturn the outcome we learned a few weeks ago - I'm going to toss my middle-aged white lady perspective out there one last time this year.

Folks, Russian hackers did not steal the election from Hillary Clinton, or give the election to Donald Trump. The FBI did not take the election from her, and she did not steal the nomination from Bernie Sanders. Green and Libertarian voters did not yank victory from her hands, either.

Fake news had less to do with the outcome of the election than did Fox News, CNN, and the nightly newscasts of the major television networks.

And finally, corporations and SuperPACS and Citizens United did not collectively make this outcome happen. Heck, Jeb! Bush had what, around $100,000,000 lined up before a single primary vote was cast?  Ask him how much good that did.

Oh, sure, fingers can be pointed, and will be pointed, and probably should be pointed in a whole lot of directions: at the powers that be in the CIA and FBI, the DNC and the RNC, the shadowy halls of  PACville, and in the rooms where media poobahs poo and bah. Everyone is trying to figure out what happened, trying to attach blame, and pointing at everyone other than themselves.

The reality is, "what happened" is that voters voted.

This election had the lowest turnout of eligible voters in presidential elections since 1996 - only about 55% of those who could vote, did vote. But the ones who did could have had any number of reasons for voting, and for voting the way they did:

  • out of a sense of duty or obligation, or because they were strong supporters of a candidate, or strong detractors of one, or
  • because they were angry, the "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" kind of people, or
  • because they felt their values or their jobs or their futures slipping through their fingers, or
  • because they thought it was fun, finally, to have someone to vote for who really didn't give a damn about what he said, who he said it about, or why, or
  • because they liked baseball caps that could hold an entire campaign vision on the front, or
  • because they liked the guy who was nothing like them but acted like he was, more than they liked the woman who was nothing like them, and acted like she wasn't, or
  • because they liked the one who seemed like someone they know from the corner bar more than the one who seemed like it would take her forever to order a drink, or
  • because they didn't care about the lies one of them told, but they believed that everything the other one said was a lie, even when it wasn't, or
  • because they thought that it would be fun to have a star in the White House, or
  • because they didn't want another Bush or Clinton, and the Bush had already been vanquished, or
  • because they really believed all of the conspiracy theories they heard about the other candidate but not the ones they heard about their own, or
  • because they were protesting the status quo, or
  • because they liked him, they really really liked him and they didn't like her, they really really didn't like her, or
  • because we already had that token Black president, and they were in no mood to follow up with a woman just because she's a woman, or 
  • because it won't matter because he won't be running the show, or
  • because, because, because, because, because----because of the wonderful Wiz he was, the wonderful Wiz he was.

The bottom line is, Trump's campaign managed to get the right votes in the right places to get enough Electoral College votes (barring us somehow entering an alternate universe for a few hours tomorrow) to win the election.  The Trump campaign managed to turn blue states red, and purple states red, and that is what it takes to win an election: have more states with at least 270 electoral college votes Red than Blue, or conversely.

I'm not discounting the fact that Trump lost the popular vote - I'm really not. We know the score, and so does he.

I'll be watching for the results tomorrow, to see if we end up with any faithless electors, Hamilton electors, whatever you want to call them -- and I fully expect we'll see Trump end up with more than 270 votes, and we'll see him inaugurated on January 20, 2017 as has been the expectation since November 8th.

For the duration of the Trump administration (also called here the Goldfoxbart administration or the Apprentice Administration), #NeverTrump people and #ImWithHer people and Blue people of all shades, shapes, stripes and sizes should maintain a relentless focus on four things.

First, we must hold the new administration, and particularly the President himself, to the normal standard to which all Presidents are held. There can be no 'lowering of the bar' and there can be no 'this is uncharted territory' or 'we've never seen anything like this' -- we saw that throughout the primaries, and we've seen that throughout this most unusual transition. We must do whatever we can to raise our voices when we see a lowering of the bar, whether it's writing and commenting intelligently on social media, or having heartfelt discussions with friends, or writing our local media, or reaching out to our representatives in Congress -- whatever it takes, we must do, fearlessly. Period.

Second, there must be a vision for our party - a true vision - that everyone can relate to, in some way, shape or form, whether they're urban, suburban, rural or somewhere in between. We did not have that this time, and the other side did. Period. We don't know for sure how that vision will come out legislatively, or whether we will see a Trump vision, a Ryan vision, a McConnell vision, or something else entirely, but whatever they had was relatable, whether we like it or not.

Third, we need to support intelligent, articulate, qualified candidates who excel at sharing the vision, and who are horrible at shooting down the other guy -- because we learned this go-round for sure that "I'm not the other guy" is not a successful, winning strategy, at any level. If our best message is how bad the other guy is, we are not going to win. Period.

And finally, we need to work to change the system. Not because if we change it we win - that's what the other side does. We need to change the system because it will be better for everyone. Because that's what we do - try and make things better for everyone.

Do not give up, do not lose hope, do not stop talking about what you see, how you feel, what you want, and what you want to do. If we do that, we're doomed. Continue the fight, knowing that it's not Hillary Clinton's fight anymore, it's our fight.

We can win if we're smart, and we can win if we're prepared.

Oh -- I'll talk about a key change we can make in an upcoming post. And it's not the electoral college.

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v9)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times

The beat goes on in Albany, it surely does.

The last few times we talked about doings in New York's capital, it was all about good people, and full time vs. part time, and pay raises for our lawmakers.

They may or may not be good people, you see, because from what we heard (and hear) all along when it comes to paying elected officials is that the salary is too low to get good people involved. Which means, I guess, instead of having the best legislature, we have the best legislature we can entice for a piddly wage that's more than $20K over the median for the state, plus travel, per diem and, in a whole lot of cases, cases a leadership lulu.

Anyway -- the tripartite Commission on Legislative, Executive and Judicial Compensation - a group of representatives of the State Senate, State Assembly, and Governor's Cuomo's office, made their decision on the judiciary, giving judges and district attorneys (who work full time, by the way) a nice raise. But when it came time to make a decision on the legislature, commissioners and executives, no deal was done: the Commission rules require agreement by all three parties, and our Sonofa Gov's representatives said no.

So, where are we today?  Well, see, the Governor -- who is the only one of the Three Amigos still standing, and who has ethically-challenged people very close to him, who sleeps well at night because he knows he's doing the right thing, and who started and abruptly ended a big darn deal Moreland Commission on ethics -- wants to do something about ethics reform in Albany.

The best way to do that, apparently, is to have the Legislature come back for a special session so they can chat, and wheel-and-deal, and pass a bill on ethics reform, and a bill to either authorize a pay raise, or authorize the Commission to come back to the table at some defined future point so that they can give the Leg a raise.

Now, of course, everyone involved says this is no quid pro quo, tit for tat, play for pay for play kind of deal. It's about "getting the people's work done," and of course, "it's not a deal if everyone agrees"  and stuff like that.

And while it appears the reason for the special session may move from Let's-do-ethics-reform-in-return-for-a-raise to Let's-help-the-homeless-in-return-for-a-raise, I admit to some curiosity here.

  • Isn't urgently helping the homeless something that could be done for the $172 per diem and cents-per-mile, without having to dangle a carrot in front of these folks? 
  • Maybe we really do need to get some better people in the Legislature, if they won't come back to do urgent homelessness legislation without getting something in return?
  • Aren't these folks, who desperately need us to agree that they're full timers to justify their raise, shooting themselves in the foot by refusing to work on important stuff like this in the off-season?

I'm not normally a huge fan of time flying by, but in this case, I hope that it does -- we do NOT need a special session that results in giving legislators a raise. Period. I don't want them to come to agreement on any deal, because the cards were already dealt to give them a raise, and they got a losing hand.

If they're unhappy with the salary and benefits they receive, they know where their district are -- and it's in their districts they should stay for the last two weeks of December.

December 14, 2016

Trump in Transition (v8)

Remember back in July, when the GOP was rocking in Cleveland?

And General Michael Flynn was on stage echoing the chants of Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up! when he talked about Hillary Clinton thinking she was above the law?

Fun times, that was for the retired general. No one's above the law, certainly not Hillary Clinton and her recklessness with classified information, oh no sirree.

Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up!

Flynn famously said at the convention
Yeah that's right, lock her up... You know why we're saying that? We're saying that because if I, a guy who knows this business, if I did tenth - a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today So Crooked Hillary Clinton, leave this race now.
Seems he might have done more than a tenth of what Clinton did. She admitted she inadvertently and carelessly passed classified information to others, aides and advisers, State Department employees.

Flynn, on the other hand, did something else entirely, according to a report in the Washington Post about a 2010  investigation. The WaPo provided a link to documents they obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. Here's what the documents say.
While serving as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, CJ-2 International Security Assistance Force, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan Major General (MG) (Flynn) shared United States classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan without proper authorization. 
Whoa, Nelly!
The Commander, US CENTCOM, initiated an AR 15-6 investigation upon receipt of a complaint from a Navy Intelligence Specialist that MG (Flynn) inappropriately shared US classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials in Afghanistan. The inquiry was conducted by a properly appointed official and was thorough. The AR 15-6 found that some inappropriate sharing of US classified information with various foreign military officers and/or officials occurred as a result of MG actions. The AR 15-6 investigation is classified SECRET.
So, he did it. He shared classified information with foreigners.
Department of Defense Inspector General completed an oversight review of the AR 15-6 investigation and concurred with the findings. 
Yep, it must be true. The DoDIG concurred. So, was he locked up? Hell no - he was promoted!
The Department of the Army strongly supports the nomination of MG (Flynn) as Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Partner Engagement The Commander CENTCOM reviewed the AR 15-6 investigation and noted the efforts to properly cleanse the foreign officer's read-books. He further stated that there was no evidence of senior officer misconduct, rather there was keen attention to mission accomplishment in a coalition, combat environment. In light of the mitigating and extenuating circumstances concerning the adverse information ascribed to MG Flynn and MG Flynn's exceptional qualifications and dedicated service, his nomination and appointment to lieutenant general is fully supported and is the best interest of the Department of Defense and the United States of America.
Flynn dodged a bullet, got promoted, and eventually left the military. He hung out in Russia, he advised several of the Republican candidates for President, while saying there was no role for him in the administration. He retweets nonsense, fake news (he's deleted those tweets now, it seems).

And now, he's going to be advising the president on national security. Unless, of course...

LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!

December 13, 2016

Trump in Transition (v7)

Well, well, well.  Looky here.  



The boys will run the business... which means Ivanka and her husband are free to join the Administration...

Quick Takes (v14): Being Presidential

Quick Takes
I stumbled upon an article recently, one in which Josh Earnest, President Obama's current press secretary, spoke horribly about then candidate Trump, and was called on it by NPR's Mara Liasson.

First, Earnest, reading from prepared remarks.
The Trump campaign for months now has had a 'dustbin of history'-like quality to it. From the vacuous sloganeering to the outright lies to even the fake hair, the whole carnival-barker routine that we've seen for some time now. The quest now is about the rest of the Republican Party and whether or not they're going to be dragged into the dustbin of history with him. And right now, the trajectory is not very good. 
And here's Liasson.
This might be a little nit-picky but in your prepared remarks you said something that struck me as very Trumpian and not very Obama-like, when you talked about Trump's fake hair. That's a hallmark of Trump, to comment on somebody -- your opponent's appearance. It's not something that I would ever expect to come from the Obama White House. I'm just curious, This was in your prepared remarks. What was the thinking behind it?
Earnest struggled to defend the comments a year ago in the press briefing, and he was of course attacked by the guy who attacked Carly Fiorina's looks, and Heidi Klum's and all the rest, the very presidential Donald J Trump. Both on Twitter and in one of his famous call-ins to Fox & Friends, Trump said
Isn't that disgusting for a presidential representative to make that comment? I assume he was joking, but for a presidential person representing us in such tough times - we have terrorism and all of the problems - for him to make that comment I thought it was so ridiculous. 
And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Of course it was a ridiculous comment for Earnest to make, speaking from behind the official podium. I mean, everyone saw that woman inspect Trump's hair down there in South Carolina, right? So we certainly don't want to push fake news on anyone.  And, to his credit, Earnest admitted his comments about Trump's hair were comments he wished he hadn't made.

But -- and that's a big, nowhere-near-a-10 kind of but, Bob-- for Trump to call anything anyone has said "ridiculous" and "disgusting" and to worry about an unpresidential appearance of someone's comments?

Stop it. Just stop it.

Trump, who doesn't believe our own intelligence reports about Russian hacking, who says it coulda been a 400 pound guy on his bed, or China, or anyone.

Trump, who is engaged in a Twitter war with Alec Baldwin because of an impersonation on SNL.

Trump, who is engaged in a Twitter war with a steelworkers union official who called out the POTUS-elect for his less than fully transparent comments about saving Carrier jobs in Indiana.

Trump, who by his random tweets has caused American businesses - AMERICAN BUSINESSES - to lose huge hunks of market value, billions of dollars, in mere minutes.

Trump, who pretends that no one was talking about his potential conflicts of interest before he got elected, as if everyone just fell off the turnip truck and realized that the T-word was blazoned on building and LLCs all over the world.

Trump, who has his daughter sit in on meetings with foreign heads of state.

Trump, who attacks American media companies employing thousands of Americans because they don't 'treat him right' whatever the hell that means.

Trump, who tweets that Americans maybe should lose their citizenship or go to jail for using their free speech rights.

Trump, who...

Stop it, you're killing me!

December 11, 2016

Sidebar: Trump in Transition (v6)

In my most recent Trump in Transition (TiT) post, I talked about the POTUS-elect tapping Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to dismantle, er, I mean, to head the EPA. At about the same time that news came out, there was another bit of news regarding the EPA and what we can expect during the Trump Administration.

As reported by the Washington Post and others, the Celebrity Transition Team is looking to do some data-mining over at EPA - sort of like their version of clean coal, or something:
Donald Trump's transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation's carbon output.
Brrrr.... that's a chilling howdy-do, don't you think?

Actually, it looks like there are only 65 questions (one page was included twice in the document) and some of them are logical questions an incoming administration, with limited 'in the weeds' knowledge would ask for, such as:
  • a list of open positions
  • a list of all Presidential employees requiring Senate confirmation
  • a list of reports due to Congress or other external parties in 2017
Nothing too nefarious in that type of question, I don't think. Here are a couple of the ones that garnered attention:
  • Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended any Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings or material created by Department employees or contractors in anticipation or as a result of those meetings?
  • Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years? (Note: the UNFCCC is commonly referred to as the Paris Agreement, something Trump has said the US will withdraw from, not participate in.)
  • Is there a readily available list of any products or technologies that have emerged from DOE  programs or the labs that are currently offered in the market without any subsidy?
  • Which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan?
  • Does the Department have any thoughts on how to reduce the bureaucratic burden for exporting US energy technology, including but not limited to commercial nuclear technology?
There are also questions that raise issues with the reliability and independence of reports coming from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), including these somewhat passive-aggressive ones:
  • EIA is an independent agency within DOE. How has EIA ensured its independence in your data and analysis over the past eight years? In what instances do you think EIA's independence was most challenged?
  • In the Annual Energy Outlook for 2016, EIA assumed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) should be in the reference case despite the fact that the reference case is based on existing laws and regulations. Why did EIA make that assumption, which seems to be atypical of past forecasts? (Note: implementation of the CPP was stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016)
  • EIA's assessments of levelized costs for renewable technologies do not contain back-up costs for the fossil fuel technologies that are brought on-line to replace the generation when those technologies are down. Is this a true representation of levelized costs?
There other questions seeking info on offshore wind generation, something we know Trump does not like (eagle-killing, ugly, China, monsters, etc.).

There are questions about Yucca Mountain, the nuclear waste repository outside Las Vegas; funding for that project was stopped by the Obama Administration. Now that Harry Reid is out of the Senate, there's opportunity for this issue to be pressed forward.
  • Are there any statutory restrictions to restarting the Yucca Mountain project?
  • Does DOE have a plan to resume the Yucca Mountain license proceedings?
There's more - some of the questions only a Department or Congressional insider, or an energy lobbyist, would understand. But it seems like the transition team is honing in on things that the current administration liked,  that are global in nature, or that are not fossil fuel and nuke friendly. 

Brrr, I say again. 

December 9, 2016

Trump in Transition (v6)

In this picture, Trump looks like he's ready to unleash the mother of all f-bombs -- and in a way, that's what he did this week.

Yeah, he and FDOTUS Ivanka met with Al Gore, the guy who invented the Internet, er, I mean, the guy who has been championing environmental issues for years, which resulted in Gore calling it a "lengthy and very productive session" and saying, according to the press pool report
It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that
Apparently that search for common ground was fruitless, because it wasn't all that much later that the POTUS-elect named his choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's Attorney General.

Pruitt has a long history of not being a fan of regulations related to energy and climate issues, having frequently joined or supported from the sidelines cases against the Obama administration's efforts.

The OK Attorney General's media page is full of references to clean energy, clean water, fossil fuels,a and the like; pretty generally, if the current Administration is for something, looks like Pruitt and his office are against it.

He co-authored, along with Alabama's AG Luther Strange, an article published in the National Review a few months back, in which it was noted
Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.
According to an investigation by the NY Times back in 2014, Pruitt in his official capacity as AG, sent a letter to the EPA that was written by energy lobbyists, and they've helped with drafts of other letters to multiple federal agencies; he and other AGs are collaborating with corporations to craft legal strategy against the Administration; and industries regulated by his office have joined lawsuits filed by his office.

There's really no surprise in the choice. Here are just a few of the bullet points in his energy plan:

  • Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protest clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.
  • Unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.
  • Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, elimination moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.
  • Encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy and increase our economic output.
  • Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least half a million jobs a year, $30B in higher wages and cheaper energy.

Promises of millions of high paying energy jobs in Trump's plan seem to assume that prices of domestically produced energy will go high and stay high indefinitely as we pump drill and dig and frack our brains out - which seems unlikely to be the case, doesn't it?  And if it is in fact unlikely, those jobs and all that economic input will disappear, just as they have over the past year or so, in Texas, and in North Dakota, when the price dropped and there was nothing in it for the energy companies to keep working. (Hey - when the price goes down, production goes down, employment goes down, economic input goes down. Is that what trickle-down economics is all about?)

Trump is no fan of the EPA, and I think this choice only adds clarity to what we can expect going forward.

December 7, 2016

Wondering on Wednesday (v72)

So, what am I wondering about tonight? Well, let's see.

Are you getting tired of hearing people talk about 'fake news' and how 'fake news' may have influenced the outcome of our recent presidential election, and how 'fake news' is becoming the new normal and how hard it is to differentiate between 'fake news' and real news?

I wonder, do you now (or did you ever) really believe that Hillary Clinton was ever (or is now) involved in a lesbian pedophile sex trafficking orgy of epic proportions, operating out of a pizza shop in Washington, DC?

This guy did. He drove from North Carolina to our nation's capital to 'self-investigate' what's become known as 'Pizzagate' and he went into the shop, fired off a round, and was promptly arrested.  The pizza place has been the target of harassment for weeks; other businesses have been been harassed for their proximity to the presumed den of iniquity, and more.

The best part? General Michael Flynn, our soon-to-be National Security Advisor, tweeted a story on this fake news as a 'must read.'

Which, of course, makes me wonder how the hell he's going to keep you and me safe when he can't even make a reasonable judgment on a story as ridiculous as this.

There are lots of people out there who can't tell satire sites from real news outlets, and who don't understand the little 'Show Facts" and "Hide Facts" buttons at the top of articles that tell us what's real and what comes from the author's imagination.

To some extent, this drives from the fact that the real news is sometimes so absurd, we have to clarify that what we post is real; for example, I've been compelled to use a "NOT The Onion" disclaimer more times than I ever thought would be necessary.

But I wonder, how did we get so far removed from that little voice in our heads asking us if we're SURE about something... you know, like when your older brother asks you to taste something, and you hear that little voice asking if you're SURE you want to do what he asked you to? Yeah, that's the voice I'm talking about.  How did we lose that, and start trusting everything we read without the slightest hesitation?

Is it because people treat the news as a hook-up, a bit of instant gratification with no strings attached, I wonder? Or maybe it's because of all the 'reality' TV shows (which, as we know, is about as 'real' as the ubiquitous boob jobs that star in that medium)? Is it because we're in a 'sampled' world, filled with auto tune mics, and we're willing to pay boatloads of money to watch people lip sync their way through concerts?

A lot of what passes for 'news' can be debunked in seconds - not days hours minutes but mere seconds.  Don't we have that much time to educate ourselves? Or is it that we simply don't care to?

Here's another test for you: is this passage real or fake?
You wouldn't believe the nonsense WideAwakePatriot and ArmedLibertyNews are pushing about how the world elites meet in Davos, Switzerland to rig the global economy, when if you actually paid attention to the facts the mainstream media doesn't want you to know about, you'd realize that the actual power players of the Jew World Order meet every day in Los Angeles to design their doomsday compounds and determine new methods to control us. (Click here to find out if this is real or fake.)
Or this one, about the POTUS-elect and a certain Baldwin brother?
And you know, I get that that's show business and it's supposed to be funny and entertaining and all that, but this just goes overboard every single time I see it, it's just plain offensive. And here's the thing right, I'm a guy who knows about show business. I've been part of it my whole life and I've made millions off of it. I know what people like and what people want to hear and see - that's part of why I am today the President of the United States and not a company owner struggling with debt who's about to go bankrupt. I know what I'm doing and I'm the first one to take a joke, but what they're doing on that show is plain rude and offensive. I won't stand for it. (Click here to see if this is real or fake.)
I wonder if General Flynn would have gotten the right answers. I think he would have said they were both real, what do you think?

December 5, 2016

Sidebar: Trump in Transition (v5)

In my most recent Trump in Transition post, I noted that the wait was still on for an announcement on whether Dr Ben Carson had actually been named the Cabinet Apprentice finalist for HUD.

As of last night, when I wrote the post, we were still biding our time, waiting for an announcement, and remembering the refreshing burst of honesty from Carson's team. You remember, right?
Dr. Carson doesn't feel that's the best way for him to serve the president-elect. Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that would cripple the presidency.
Carson also noted earlier in November
I've said that if it came to a point where he absolutely needs me, I'd reconsider. But I don't think that's the situation with these positions. My view is that if some people and the media are going to hate him, then he's going to need allies on the outside to be there to be there to move the country forward. I don't care about a position.  
Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly. 
All that said, and the visuals notwithstanding, here are a couple of excerpts from the announcement.
I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities...Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up.
And from Carson's statement:
I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration. I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. 
All that fish out of water stuff?  Yeah, that must have been just water over the dam, or under the bridge, or drained from the swamp.