Friday, January 20, 2017

Why a free society must be built on honesty, regardless of the law

From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece

By SCOTT SHANE, JAN. 18, 2017, New York Times

It was early fall, and Donald J. Trump, behind in the polls, seemed to be preparing a rationale in case a winner like him somehow managed to lose. “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” the Republican nominee told a riled-up crowd in Columbus, Ohio. He was hearing “more and more” about evidence of rigging, he added, leaving the details to his supporters’ imagination.

A few weeks later, Cameron Harris, a new college graduate with a fervent interest in Maryland Republican politics and a need for cash, sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment to fill in the details Mr. Trump had left out. In a dubious art just coming into its prime, this bogus story would be his masterpiece.

Mr. Harris started by crafting the headline: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.” It made sense, he figured, to locate this shocking discovery in the very city and state where Mr. Trump had highlighted his “rigged” meme.

(The article is here.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Over 1.3 million expected at Women's Marches around the world

SISTER MARCHES

Sister Marches are solidarity events inspired by the Women's March on Washington, and organized by volunteers around the world. If you can't make it to Washington, D.C. on January 21, join or host a Sister March near you. 
(See the list of marches here.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Betting Odds and What Experts Say about Trump's Upcoming Term

Will Donald Trump Be Impeached Or Resign?

BY BOBBY ILICH, International Business Times

Donald J. Trump is just eight days away from being sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. Yet even as Inauguration Day draws closer, the billionaire businessman continues to be a lightning rod for controversy as he skirts conventional presidential protocol in a manner that confounds ally and foe alike.

His behavior before and after the November election has led some to joke, or actually believe, that Trump doesn't want to be president, and that he would prefer a return to running his business and promoting his brands. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes, with just a 37 percent favorable rating, particularly low numbers for an incoming president.

(Continued here.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Did Trump make a deal with Russian government before the election?

Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele's frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months

Steele was so concerned by revelations he worked without payment after Trump's election victory in November

Kim Sengupta, Defence Editor, The Independent

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who investigated Donald Trump’s alleged Kremlin links, was so worried by what he was discovering that at the end he was working without pay, The Independent has learned.

Mr Steele also decided to pass on information to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries.

However, say security sources, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

[…]

In the same month Mr Steele produced a memo, which went to the FBI, stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. A month later officials involved in his campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

(The article is here.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

A worrisome sign of what's to come: It ain't normal, folks…

The Arctic sea ice collapse is happening before our eyes

Rafi Letzter, Business Insider
Jan. 10, 2017, 1:36 PM

As 2016 wound down and winter kicked into gear in the Northern Hemisphere, an ominous trend began in the Arctic: sea ice dipped to levels far below normal.

Less of the northern ocean was covered in ice than scientists had ever seen in the satellite record.

The trend began in earnest back in November, when hot air in the far north began cooking the oceans, curbing the formation of ice. Growth sped up a bit in December, so the gap between what satellites saw and what's normal shrank. But the ice cap was still missing enough ice to cover 23 US states, a record-breaking total.

Now it's 2017. New year, same story. The Arctic sea ice is far behind where it should be, and behind anything scientists have ever seen in the Arctic.

(Continued here.)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Not IF but WHEN

The day after the 2016 election I predicted that Donald Trump would not make it through four years of office. Now I believe it is a 99% chance he will not last the full term.

Richard Nixon was impeached by the House for lying. He resigned before he could be convicted by the Senate. Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for lying. But he survived the full conviction vote in the Senate.

It is clear that Donald Trump thinks nothing of lying. He may be a successful businessman, he may have family that love him, he may have many loyal and competent employees in his many businesses. And no doubt he will have many supporters in Congress, among his soon-to-be Cabinet members and on his White House staff.

But it is clear he has no concept of the truth and little idea or care of how his decisions affect others. This is the textbook definition of psychopathy.

Further, what is becoming more and more known about his personal life and his business dealings will not be accepted by the American people and ultimately Congress.

Whether Donald Trump chooses to resign before impeachment or after impeachment, or whether he will choose to go through the impeachment trial in the Senate is anyone's guess. This we do know, however: that no matter how he exits he will declare it a victory.

It is not a matter of IF but WHEN.

— Leigh Pomeroy

Trump Dossier Spotlights Russian History of ‘Kompromat’

Diplomats, politicians and bureaucrats have been embarrassed by leaks of compromising material

By Nathan Hodge and Thomas Grove, Wall Street Journal
Jan. 11, 2017 4:46 p.m. ET

MOSCOW—The public airing of a dossier Tuesday on President-elect Donald Trump casts a spotlight on Russia’s dark art of kompromat, the practice of collecting compromising material on prominent individuals for the purposes of blackmail.

The dossier is packed with unverified allegations, including a claim that Russian officials obtained evidence of Mr. Trump with prostitutes and kept the information in reserve as potential blackmail.

Mr. Trump has dismissed the reports. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday. “One last shot at me.”

The Kremlin has denied any link to the dossier, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the reports “pulp fiction,” according to Russian news agencies.

(More here.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

More GOP hypocrisy: Fiscal conservatism takes a back seat

GOP House rules prohibit measuring how repealing Obamacare will affect the federal deficit.

Mankato Free Press Editorial Staff

The Republican majority in the U.S. House took a step backward from fiscal responsibility when it approved rules for the next two years that would prohibit the Congressional Budget Office from estimating the impact on the federal deficit of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The rules were approved by a 234-190 vote, with three Republicans voting with all Democrats against the plan to prohibit the fiscal oversight of repeal. All of Minnesota’s Republican representatives voted to remove the fiscal analysis.

For years, the “Rules of the House of Representatives” required the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to estimate the impact of any legislation that might cost more than $5 billion of the next 40 years, an amount that is miniscule when compared to the $3.5 trillion annual federal budget.

Yet, the latest rules exempt analysis of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The CBO’s analysis done last June shows repealing the affordable care act would increase the federal deficit anywhere from $135 billion to $350 billion over the next 10 years. When the CBO estimated implementation of the act, it determined it would actually reduce the federal deficit due to taxes it would collect and Medicare payments it would corral.

(More here.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dear President-elect Trump, President Obama, Members of the US Congress, and Global Leaders:

We, the undersigned members in the business and investor community of the United States, re-affirm our deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

We call on our elected US leaders to strongly support:
  1. Continuation of low-carbon policies to allow the US to meet or exceed our promised national commitment and to increase our nation’s future ambition
  2. Investment in the low carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost the confidence of investors worldwide
  3. Continued US participation in the Paris Agreement, in order to provide the long-term direction needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C
(For more information go to lowcarbonusa.org.)

US businesses: We want the economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy

Donald Trump urged to ditch his climate change denial by 630 major firms who warn it 'puts American prosperity at risk'

Ian Johnston, The Independent

More than 630 companies and investors have called on Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress to continue the move to a low-carbon economy, warning that failing to do so would “put American prosperity at risk”.

The US President-elect has talked about scrapping the United States’ international commitments to tackle global warming, such as the Paris Agreement, dismissed climate change as a hoax, and appointed a string of climate science deniers to senior positions in his administration.

His election has been described as a “very big challenge” to the world’s efforts to address the problem by UK Climate Change Minister Nick Hurd.

In a joint statement, leading companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Unilever, appealed to Mr Trump to reconsider his apparent views.

(More here.)

Monday, January 09, 2017

A key difference between two presidents

The irreversible momentum of clean energy

Barack Obama, Science magazine

Abstract

Private-sector incentives help drive decoupling of emissions and economic growth.

The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) due to human activity is increasing global average surface air temperatures, disrupting weather patterns, and acidifying the ocean (1). Left unchecked, the continued growth of GHG emissions could cause global average temperatures to increase by another 4°C or more by 2100 and by 1.5 to 2 times as much in many midcontinent and far northern locations (1). Although our understanding of the impacts of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, there is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy—a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition. But putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow. This Policy Forum will focus on the four reasons I believe the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.

(The article is here.)

Will a crucial ocean current shut down?

The Atlantic Ocean and an Actual Debate in Climate Science

ROBINSON MEYER
JAN 7, 2017, The Atlantic

[…]

About 30 years ago, climate researchers became concerned that AMOC [Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a.k.a. the Gulf Stream] could suddenly shut down as a result of anthropogenic climate change. The “paleoclimatic record”—that is, what the planet’s geology and fossil record reveal of previous global climates—showed that the AMOC has rapidly collapsed in the past. “Rapidly” here means “within the span of a human lifetime.”

[…]

This week, the consensus on AMOC was challenged again. A team of researchers have showed in Science Advances that a popularly used climate model may significantly overestimate the stability of AMOC. Once you account for this bias, AMOC proves much more likely to collapse, they argue. And this collapse could happen without any freshwater injection from Greenland.

In other words, they show that the stress of global warming can push AMOC into collapse all by itself in at least one model. Freshwater doesn’t need to pour in from Greenland for AMOC to fall apart; simply increasing the temperature of the ocean can do it.

(The article is here.)

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Definite proof that man-made climate change is not happening!

The crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by 11 miles. A dramatic break could be imminent.

By Chris Mooney
Washington Post, January 6 at 4:30 PM

An enormous rift in one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves grew dramatically over the past month, and a chunk nearly the size of Delaware could break away as soon as later this winter, British scientists reported this week.

If this happens, it could accelerate a further breakup of the ice shelf, essentially removing a massive cork of ice that keeps some of Antarctica’s glaciers from flowing into the ocean. The long term result, scientists project, could be to noticeably raise global sea levels by 10 centimeters, or almost four inches.

It’s the latest sign of major ice loss in the fast warming Antarctic Peninsula, which has already seen the breakup of two other shelves in the same region, events that have been widely attributed to climate change.

The crack in the ice shelf, known as Larsen C, has been growing at an accelerating rate. Since the beginning of December, it has grown about 11 miles in length, after extending 13 miles earlier in the year. In total, the rift has grown about 50 miles since 2011 (it’s almost 100 miles long in total), and has widened to well over 1,000 feet. Now, only 12 miles of ice continue to connect the chunk with the rest of the ice shelf.

(Continued here.)

Friday, January 06, 2017

Trump hasn't drained the swamp; he's only adding to it

by Tom Maertens, Vox Verax co-editor

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.

One of Donald Trump’s regular refrains on the campaign trail was that he would “drain the swamp” — eliminate the corrupting influence of lobbyists and money in politics.

The votes had barely been counted when Trump’s children wandered into the swamp, attempting to sell access to their father for a million dollars a pop, another Trump-style “charity.” Trump’s son Eric planned to auction off coffee with his sister, Ivanka, and offered a hunting trip with his brother, Donald Jr., for “only” $500,000.

Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has opened a lobbying office with another ex-campaign worker in the same building as Trump’s transition team. Politico reported that they already brokered Trump’s meeting with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

Is there any doubt they are selling access to Trump?

Trump has stocked his cabinet with top donors, so far including five billionaires and six other people worth tens or hundreds of millions who used their resources to get special favors from Trump. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, 17 of Trump’s appointees have more money than the bottom 43 million American households combined.

That includes billionaire investor Carl Icahn as a special adviser on regulation. Icahn already had a hand in picking Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is pro-Big Oil and has sued the EPA repeatedly for its efforts to stop air and water pollution, positions likely to benefit the oil refineries Icahn owns.

Wilbur Ross, a billionaire named to head the Commerce Department, made his fortune buying and dismantling distressed industrial corporations. This guy is going to save manufacturing jobs?

Betsy DeVos, a billionaire nominated to head the Department of Education, is opposed to public schools; she was a leading proponent of charter schools in Michigan.

Andrew F. Puzder, another billionaire, chosen for secretary of labor, is a fast-food executive who was fined for failing to pay overtime and who opposes raising the minimum wage.

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was chosen as secretary of state after a career spent supporting fossil fuel. He has long-time connections with Russia, and recent revelations from the secret Panama papers show he was a director of one of Putin’s shadow corporations.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee as Treasury secretary and a former Goldman Sachs executive, was part owner of IndyMac bank which foreclosed on 36,000 homeowners during the housing crisis despite receiving $900 million in federal bailout money. Additionally, Bloomberg is reporting that the bank is being investigated for possible fraud because of a $230 million hole in its balance sheet.

Another Trump appointee is Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) selected to run Health and Human Services. The WSJ has documented dozens of stock trades Price made in the last four years in 40 health-related companies, while sitting on several committees that shape health care policy, including chairing the House Budget Committee.

Price sponsored nine bills and co-sponsored 35 others that could potentially affect the value of his stocks. A 2012 law — Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act — bars members from using non-public information for personal benefit. Five thousand doctors signed a petition opposing his nomination.

Among Trump’s other appointees are conspiracy theorists such as Steve Bannon, his chief of staff, who is the leader of the racist, white-supremacist website, Breitbart.com, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, who claimed in an on-line post that the New York Police Department had evidence linking Hillary Clinton to “sex crimes with minors.” “U decide,” Flynn wrote, calling the post a “must-read.”

Flynn also claimed that Islamists infiltrated across the Mexican border en masse, guided by Arabic-language signs Flynn claimed to have seen himself.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Trump’s pick for interior secretary, told voters in 2014 that Clinton was the real enemy, “the Antichrist.”

The biggest problem is Donald Trump himself who is temperamentally unsuited to be president. His attention span is limited to 140-characters, usually chest-thumping, messages: in one week, he tweeted a nuclear arms race challenge to Putin, threatened a trade war with China, and attempted to intrude into a U.N. vote on Israeli settlements.

He is so desperate for adulation that he looks ready to abandon NATO allies and national interests for some praise from Putin.

Equally problematic, as the New York Times has written editorially, “Trump lies the way other people breathe.”

As Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said: “We have an incoming president who has kind of the maturity of a 5-year-old, warped by a massive ego.”

Thursday, January 05, 2017

As the U.S. government moves into denial, the science says otherwise

Earth's Oceans Are Steadily Warming

ROBINSON MEYER, JAN 4, 2017, The Atlantic

It’s sometimes said that modern science spends too much time on the documentation of a new trend and too little time on the replication of old ones. A new paper published Wednesday in the open-access journal Science Advances is important just because it does the latter. In fact, it sheds light on the scientific process in action—and also reveals how climate-change denialists can muddy that process.

Here’s the big takeaway from the new study: Across the planet, the ocean surface has been warming at a relatively steady clip over the past 50 years.

This warming trend shows up whether the ocean is measured by buoy, by satellite, or by autonomous floating drone. It also shows up in the global temperature dataset created and maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In fact, the warming shows up in both datasets in essentially the same way. This is important because it confirms the integrity of the NOAA dataset — and adds further evidence to the argument that ocean temperatures have steadily warmed this century without a significant slowdown.

(More here.)

How a KGB Assassin Used the Death of His Child to Defect

Bogdan Stashinsky was forced to work for the KGB against his will and became one of the most wanted assassins in the world. This is the story of how he put it all on the line to escape.

By Serhii Plokhii, Poltico.com
January 05, 2017

Shortly before 5:00 a.m. on August 10, 1961, Bogdan Stashinsky was waiting near his apartment building in Moscow to be picked up by his case officer, Yurii Aleksandrov. Before leaving, he put his household effects in order and destroyed the list of code phrases that he and his wife Inge had used in their correspondence over the past six months, he in Moscow where the KGB kept an eye on him and she in East Berlin where she had gone to have their newborn son. The only incriminating evidence remaining was what he carried on him—the identification papers and documents, issued in the names of his numerous aliases that he was taking to Berlin against the orders of his case officer. If they were discovered, the KGB would have no doubt about his real intentions.

He was risking his life to escape the suffocating embrace of the KGB, the ultra-secretive Soviet spy agency that had ensnared him when he was 19 years old and made him one of the highest-profile assassins in the world.

The story of Stashinsky’s defection from the KGB—which has never before been told in such detail—started when he fell in love with Inge Pohl, an East German woman, in the spring of 1957. A son of Ukrainian patriots, and forced to spy on the anti-Soviet underground under the threat that his entire family would be arrested for helping the nationalist underground, he was now in his seventh year of working for the Russian security agency. In the fall of 1957, he had ambushed the editor of a Ukrainian émigré newspaper on the stairs of a Munich office building and killed him with a top secret spray gun that fired cyanide. Two years later, in October 1959 he scored an even bigger success, assassinating the top leader of the Ukrainian resistance hiding in Munich, Stepan Bandera, in the same way. He had told Inge nothing about his work for the KGB.

(More here.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Stop calling the Syrian conflict a ‘civil war.’ It’s not.

Residents of Aleppo, Syria, flee advancing government troops on Dec. 13, 2016 (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Doing so gives the Assad regime a veneer of legitimacy and has serious impact on international accountability.

By Hanin Ghaddar December 14, 2016, WashPost

Hanin Ghaddar is the inaugural Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.

In the past five years, Syria has become many things: a refugee crisis, a regional quagmire, a western nightmare, a terrorist haven, a Russian power play and the core of Iran’s ambitions. To the international community, however, it’s a civil war. The United Nations, Western governments, media and European Union all refer to the Syrian conflict this way. In December 2015, Secretary of State John F. Kerry emphasized the need to “end the nation’s civil war.” In September this year, the New York Times published a long explainer on the conflict, answering, among other questions, “What is the Syrian civil war?”

These simplifications are inaccurate and dangerous. They absolve the international community of responsibility, and give Bashar al-Assad a veneer of legitimacy. They liberate Russia and Iran — actively involved with troops in the conflict — from culpability. And they allow internal terrorist groups to justify their involvement and violence.

There is no doubt that civil war is one of the many layers of the Syrian conflict. Local factions are fighting each other. In truth though, this is a war on the people of Syria, carried out by the Assad regime and his allies.

(More here.)

How some Republicans learned to stop worrying and love Julian Assange

By Aaron Blake January 4 at 12:10 PM, WashPost

Sean Hannity once said that Julian Assange was waging “war” on the United States and should be arrested. Sarah Palin once said he had “blood on his hands.”

That was then. Today, both Hannity and Palin think Assange's document-leaking website, WikiLeaks, is doing the Lord's work. Apparently, something has changed.

And they're not alone. Increasingly, members of a Republican Party that once denounced Assange for exposing U.S. military secrets are praising him for leaking the Democratic Party's secrets. Even President-elect Donald Trump is now citing Assange as an authority.

After Assange leaked U.S. diplomatic cables — some of them containing sensitive information — Hannity in 2010 wondered aloud how the Obama administration hadn't brought him to justice, and accused Assange of putting the lives of American allies “at risk.”

(More here.)

A digital form of scientific book burning

Wisconsin censors climate science on its DNR website

Paul Huttner January 3, 2017, Minnesota Public Radio

Recently the State of Wisconsin scrubbed climate change-related information on a Department of Natural Resources website. The changes delete accepted climate science, and remove reference to human-caused climate change and effects in the Great Lakes.

The revised Wisconsin DNR website scrubs reference to “human activities” as a cause of climate change. It also removes reference to climate change causes and effects. The revised page specifically removes the words “climate change” and “climate” from the DNR website. They also removed several climate related links.

[…]

The Wisconsin DNR’s website assertion that the reasons for climate change in Wisconsin are “being debated” is ludicrous. That statement is provably false with scientific certainty. The National Climate Assessment and numerous other sources document human-caused climate change in Wisconsin, the Midwest, and the USA.

In fact, Wisconsin is among the fastest warming states in the USA, according this Climate Central report.

[…]

The intentional removal by the Wisconsin DNR of thoroughly researched, tested and accepted climate science is disturbing. To this meteorologist it looks a lot like a digital form of scientific book burning.

(The article is here.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Another point of view on the purported Russian hacking

U.S. Intelligence Got the Wrong Cyber Bear

Bloomberg View
JAN 2, 2017 11:58 AM EST
By Leonid Bershidsky

Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.

The "Russian hacking" story in the U.S. has gone too far. That it's not based on any solid public evidence, and that reports of it are often so overblown as to miss the mark, is only a problem to those who worry about disinformation campaigns, propaganda and journalistic standards -- a small segment of the general public. But the recent U.S. government report that purports to substantiate technical details of recent hacks by Russian intelligence is off the mark and has the potential to do real damage to far more people and organizations.

The joint report by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a catchy name for "Russian malicious cyber activity" -- Grizzly Steppe -- and creates infinite opportunities for false flag operations that the U.S. government all but promises to attribute to Russia.

The report's goal is not to provide evidence of, say, Russian tampering with the U.S. presidential election, but ostensibly to enable U.S. organizations to detect Russian cyber-intelligence efforts and report incidents related to it to the U.S. government. It's supposed to tell network administrators what to look for. To that end, the report contains a specific YARA rule -- a bit of code used for identifying a malware sample. The rule identifies software called the PAS Tool PHP Web Kit. Some inquisitive security researchers have googled the kit and found it easy to download from the profexer.name website. It was no longer available on Monday, but researchers at Feejit, the developer of WordPress security plugin Wordfence, took some screenshots of the site, which proudly declared the product was made in Ukraine.

(Continued here.)

The future of energy is in the future, not in the past

Understand the Energy Department Before Closing It

DEC 30, 2016 7:30 AM EST
By Noah Smith, Bloomberg View

When you hear the name “Rick Perry,” you might recall that time during the 2012 Republican presidential primary race where he forgot the name of a government agency he wanted to eliminate. After saying he wanted to ax the Department of Commerce and the Department of Education, he blanked on the third. Later in the debate, he said that his forgotten target for destruction was the Department of Energy.

A responsible leader doesn’t forget the name of a government agency that he wants to shut down. A responsible leader studies the department in detail, learning all of the things that it does, and thinks about how things would change if the department were abolished. And so for Perry, that “oops” moment was enough to persuade voters that he lacked the firm grasp of the facts needed in a presidential candidate. He soon abandoned the race.

But it seems like in the Republican Party of 2016, leaders are not rewarded for being responsible and informed. Instead, the party’s leaders are rewarded for finding new targets, justified or not, for the outrage of their voter base.

(More here.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Israel should not tell the U.S. what to do

Bibi Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump

Thomas L. Friedman — DEC. 28, 2016
New York Times

[LP note: Friedman's latest book, Thank You for Being Late, for anyone who wants to know what's really going on in the world today — no, not just political stuff but technology and, indeed, the future. Anytime I can read a book and learn something, I'm impressed. I'm just a quarter thru Thank You, and already I'm very impressed.]
For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.
[Key point:]
President-elect Donald Trump — who could be a fresh change agent — is letting himself get totally manipulated by right-wing extremists, and I mean extreme. His ambassador-designate to Israel, David Friedman, has compared Jews who favor a two-state solution to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis. I’ve never heard such a vile slur from one Jew to another.
(More here.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Scientists to Trump and the GOP: Respect Science

An Open Letter to President-Elect Trump and the 115th Congress

Thousands of scientists have joined in an open letter calling on the incoming Trump administration and 115th Congress to ensure that science continues to play a strong role in protecting public health and well-being.

The letter, whose signers include 22 Nobel Prize winners, asks the Trump administration and Congress to take action in four areas: creating "a strong and open culture of science"; ensuring that public safeguards such as the Clean Air Act remain strongly grounded in science; adhering to high standards of scientific integrity and independence; and providing adequate resources to enable federal scientists to do their vitally important jobs.

(More here.)

Will a GOP presidency sink the economy again?

Bad News for America’s Workers

by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979, is University Professor at Columbia University, Co-Chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute.

NEW YORK – As US President-elect Donald Trump fills his cabinet, what have we learned about the likely direction and impact of his administration’s economic policy?

To be sure, enormous uncertainties remain. As in many other areas, Trump’s promises and statements on economic policy have been inconsistent. While he routinely accuses others of lying, many of his economic assertions and promises – indeed, his entire view of governance – seem worthy of Nazi Germany’s “big lie” propagandists.

Trump will take charge of an economy on a strongly upward trend, with third-quarter GDP growing at an impressive annual rate of 3.2% and unemployment at 4.6% in November. By contrast, when President Barack Obama took over in 2009, he inherited from George W. Bush an economy sinking into a deep recession. And, like Bush, Trump is yet another Republican president who will assume office despite losing the popular vote, only to pretend that he has a mandate to undertake extremist policies.

The only way Trump will square his promises of higher infrastructure and defense spending with large tax cuts and deficit reduction is a heavy dose of what used to be called voodoo economics. Decades of “cutting the fat” in government has left little to cut: federal government employment as a percentage of the population is lower today than it was in the era of small government under President Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago.

(Continued here.)