Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 2nd, 2016

Why the Dakota Access Pipeline is a Big Deal: Bismarck residents got the Dakota Access Pipeline moved without a fight

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It’s extremely difficult, perhaps even impossible, not to see rank, overt, festering racism and class warfare here. T. J. Rafael reports in PRI:

Snowfall has made its way to North Dakota, adding an element of concern to the ongoing battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline. On Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple ordered an emergency evacuation of protesters working to block the construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline, citing safety concerns with the oncoming winter weather.

This announcement comes just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stating that the land they manage north of the Cannonball River will be closed on December 5. Anyone found on the land after that date will be considered trespassers and subject to prosecution.

For several months, the local Native American community and other protesters have been arguing that the pipeline could threaten the reservation’s water supply. But this is actually an updated routing — after the original routing was rejected for similar reasons. The original pipeline was to be routed just north of Bismarck, North Dakota, according to Karen Van Fossan, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“I actually read about the original pathway, or an original pathway of the pipeline, in our local newspaper,” she says. “It’s our understanding, and I’ve talked to everybody who I know who would have known about it in advance, that we never even in Bismarck had to make an objection. The pathway was moved away from our drinking supply without our even needing to go to a meeting or write a letter.”

Van Fossan says she believes a decision was independently made to reroute the pipeline to its current location. Bismarck city officials did not respond to a request for comment.

“Nobody I know ever knew anything about the routing north of Bismarck,” Van Fossan says.

Though Bismarck is 92.4 percent white, according to 2015 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Van Fossan says many residents in the city are “aghast” by the events playing out in Standing Rock, and are standing in solidarity with the indigenous protesters and other demonstrators. . .

Continue reading.

Support from sidelines is sometimes hard to distinguish from being looky-loos. And the police are so in the pocket of big business that they are just about at open warfare against a protest—that is, the exercise of a constitutional right. It’s very like Orwell’s 1984, which I hope everyone is rereading: “Rights are Wrong. Constitution is Against the Law. Expressing your right is criminal behavior. Force solves most problems. Plus any multimilion dollar setllement will be paid by the taxpayer, so it’s essentially free to us. I feared for my life.”

UPDATE: Trump will support the Dakota Pipeline project: He’s an investor in it. See this post.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 4:04 pm

Government by chaos: Trump Speaks With Taiwan’s Leader, a Possible Affront to China

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Mark Landler reports in the NY Times a good example of why we should have avoiding electing a stone narcissist with no relevant government experience and no knowledge of law or policy because he cannot read anything longer than a tweet:

President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday, a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office.

Mr. Trump’s office said he spoke with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, “who offered her congratulations.”

He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since 1979, when the United States severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan after its recognition of the People’s Republic of China.

In the statement, Mr. Trump’s office said the two leaders noted that “close economic, political, and security ties” exist between Taiwan and the United States. The statement also said Mr. Trump “congratulated President Tsai on becoming president of Taiwan earlier this year.”

The White House was not told about Mr. Trump’s call until after it happened, according to a senior administration official. The official spoke on ground rules of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic relations.

But the potential fallout from the conversation was significant, the administration official said, noting that the Chinese government issued a bitter protest after the United States sold weapons to Taiwan as part of a well-established arms agreement.

Mr. Trump’s call with President Tsai is a far bigger provocation, though . . .

Continue reading.

OTOH, Trump certainly does know how to gin up press coverage: do something outrageous! And while that works in the world of wrestling and entertainment, the consequences of outrageous actions back here in real life can be quite serious and even costing lives. And I really do think he knew his call was “naughty” and would get the elite (i.e., those who know what they’re doing and understand the situation far beyond what Trump understands, if he’s even thought about it (which seems unlikely)) riled up and thus please the rubes. To him, it probably seemed quite the giggle.

We are not amused.

UPDATE: Ah! The call was for business reasons. Kevin Drum notes:

Of course, maybe Trump was just calling to ask for a business favor:

The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September….Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect’s second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 3:10 pm

“Religious freedom” laws are a two-edged sword: Satanic Temple Says Texas’s New Rules on Fetal Burial Violate Their Religious Freedom

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Religious freedom laws that attempt to force non-believers to heed the tenets of a particular religion or to allow believers of a particular religion freedom to ignore laws if they see those laws as impinging on their religion, are (IMO) a pestilence. If you offer a service to the public, you don’t get to pick and choose whom you serve since that is an open doorway to discrimination, which may be based on religion (“We don’t serve [Catholics, or Protestants, or Christians in general, or Jews, or Muslims, or Satanists, etc.]”), race (and it’s worth noting that in the US religion gave full support to enslaving African-Americans), and so on. If your religion forbids you to take medication (as some religions do—for example, Christian Science, Seventh-Day Adventists), you are not required to take medications, but if you use your beliefs to prevent others from taking medications, it is not religious freedom and religious imposition.

Anna Merlan posts at Jezebel:

In December, Texas will impose new rules requiring all fetal remains to be buried or cremated, a sneaky way to impede abortion access and make patients feel just a little worse, all at the same time. The Satanic Temple, the nation’s best and foremost trolls, declared today that under federal religious freedom laws, their members must be granted immunity from the new rules.

Texas’s new rules (not a “law,” since it didn’t go through a legislative process, but a bureaucratic one), stipulate that fetal remains have to be buried or cremated by hospitals or healthcare providers. The rules won’t apply to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home, and healthcare providers won’t be required to obtain death certificates for fetal tissue, which could have created privacy concerns.

Nonetheless, the Satanic Temple sees the whole thing for what it is: a naked bid to elevate fetal tissue to the status of a human being. In a press release, Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves called the new rules, which go into effect December 19, “a direct violation” of the group’s religious beliefs.

“Texas health officials are baldly imposing the view that the fetal tissue is elevated to personhood—a religious opinion that conflicts with our own,” Greaves is quoted as saying. “If Texas is going to treat the disposal of fetal tissue differently from the disposal of any other biological material, in contradiction to our own religious beliefs, they need to present a compelling state interest for doing so. Of course, there is no such state interest, and it’s perfectly clear the demand for fetal tissue burial is a punitive measure imposed by sadistic theocrats. It’s clear these officials deem harassment an acceptable form of pushing their misguided religious agendas.”

The Satanic Temple, you will recall, said the same thing about anti-abortion legislation in Missouri, saying their members should be immune from those aswell, because Satanic tenets hold that the body is inviolate and shouldn’t be subject to outside influence. In both cases, they cite a law that conservatives fervently love, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law passed in 1993 and mirrored by state laws in 20 states. The Satanic Temple is insisting that Texas provide a “compelling reason” why the state shouldn’t honor their religious beliefs. . .

Continue reading.

I think the source of the problem is the unconscious assumption by legislators that everyone had the same religious belief as the legislators.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 2:35 pm

Why Trump Would Almost Certainly Be Violating the Constitution If He Continues to Own His Businesses

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Richard Tofel has an interesting report in ProPublica:

Far from ending with President-elect Trump’s announcement that he will separate himself from the management of his business empire, the constitutional debate about the meaning of the Emoluments Clause — and whether Trump will be violating it — is likely just beginning.

That’s because the Emoluments Clause seems to bar Trump’s ownership of his business. It has little to do with his management of it. Trump’s tweets last Wednesday said he would be “completely out of business operations.”

But unless Trump sells or gives his business to his children before taking office the Emoluments Clause would almost certainly be violated. Even if he does sell or give it away, any retained residual interest, or any sale payout based on the company’s results, would still give him a stake in its fortunes, again fairly clearly violating the Constitution.

The Emoluments Clause bars U.S. officials, including the president, from receiving payments from foreign governments or foreign government entities unless the payments are specifically approved by Congress. As ProPublica and others have detailed, Trump’s business has ties with foreign government entities ranging from loans and leases with the Bank of China to what appear to be tax-supported hotel deals in India and elsewhere. The full extent of such ties remains unknown, and Trump has refused to disclose them, or to make public his tax returns, through which many such deals, if they exist, would be revealed. Foreign government investments in Trump entities would also be covered by the clause, as would foreign government officials paying to stay in Trump hotels, so long as Trump stands to share in the revenues.

One misconception about the Emoluments Clause in early press coverage of it in the wake of Trump’s election is being clarified as scholars look more closely at the provision’s history. That was the suggestion that it would not be a violation for the Trump Organization to conduct business with foreign government entities if “fair market value” was received by the governments.

This view had been attributed to Professor Richard Painter, a former official of the George W. Bush administration, and privately by some others. But Professor Laurence Tribe, the author of the leading treatise on constitutional law, and others said the Emoluments Clause was more sweeping, and mandated a ban on such dealings without congressional approval. Painter now largely agrees, telling ProPublica that no fair market value test would apply to the sale of services (specifically including hotel rooms), and such a test would apply only to the sale of goods. The Trump Organization mostly sells services, such as hotel stays, golf memberships, branding deals and management services.

The Emoluments Clause appears in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution. It bars any “person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States from accepting any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Price, or foreign state” “without the consent of the Congress.” The word “emolument” comes from the Latin emolumentum, meaning profit or gain. The language of the clause was lifted in its entirety from the Articles of Confederation which established the structure of the government of the United States from 1781 until the ratification of the Constitution in 1788-89. The clause was derived from a Dutch rule dating to 1751.

The clause was added to the draft Constitution at the Constitutional Convention on Aug. 23, 1787 on a motion by Charles Pinckney of South Carolina. As Gov. Edmund Randolph of Virginia explained to his state’s ratification convention in 1788, Pinckney’s motion was occasioned by Benjamin Franklin, who had been given a snuffbox, adorned with the royal portrait and encrusted with small diamonds, by Louis XVI while serving as the Continental Congress’s ambassador to France. As Randolph said,

“An accident which actually happened, operated in producing the restriction. A box was presented to our ambassador by the king of our allies. It was thought proper, in order to exclude corruption and foreign influence, to prohibit any one in office from receiving emoluments from foreign states.”

The Continental Congress in 1786 had consented, after a debate, to Franklin keeping the snuffbox, as it had earlier with a similar gift to envoy Arthur Lee. At the same time, consent also was given to diplomat John Jay receiving a horse from the King of Spain.

The clause was part of the basis for Alexander Hamilton’s defense of the Constitution, in Federalist 22, as addressing “one of the weak sides of republics”: “that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”

There is no question that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president. President Obama’s counsel sought an opinion in 2009 on whether it barred him from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. The Justice Department concluded that it did not, in part based on historical precedent (the Prize had also been awarded to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Vice President Charles Dawes and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger), but primarily because the Norwegian group that awards the prize was not deemed a governmental entity. . .

Continue reading.

I wonder what course Trump will take. I believe that he views himself as a businessman first, with the presidency as a temporary job with terrific upside possibilities for his businesses, so I cannot believe that he will divest himself of his businesses or even put them at arm’s length. Perhaps he’ll simply resign, but in any event it’s up to Congress: the conclusion of the report:

. . .  Ironically, an “originalist” reading of the clause — usually favored these days by conservatives as exemplified by the late Justice Antonin Scalia and current Justice Clarence Thomas — would seem to bind Trump more stringently, while a “living constitution” approach — exemplified by liberals such as the late Justices Louis Brandeis and Thurgood Marshall — might offer him greater latitude.

Clearly, deciding what the Emoluments Clause means in a specific case is a complicated legal question. (The opinion on Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Prize runs to 13 printed pages.) But just as clearly, the judges of its meaning with respect to President Trump will be politicians rather than the Supreme Court.

The controversies that swirled around Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clintonestablished a number of key points. Among them are that the sole remedy for a violation of the Constitution by a president in office is impeachment, and that the House of Representatives is the sole judge of what constitutes an impeachable offense, while the Senate is the sole judge of whether such an alleged violation warrants removal from office. (Impeachments are very rare: articles of impeachment have been voted against only two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Clinton, both of whom were acquitted by the Senate, while Nixon resigned ahead of likely impeachment. Fifteen federal judges have also been impeached, and eight removed, while four resigned.)

The arguments of scholars and lawyers on the meaning of the Emoluments Clause may influence the public, and their elected representatives. But if Trump decides not to dispose of his business, it will be up to Congress to decide whether to do anything about his apparent violation of the Constitution.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 2:14 pm

Using Ecstasy to treat PTSD: ‘I felt like my soul snapped back into place’

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Another drug shows great therapeutic promise, reported at PBS by Caleb Hellerman:

In nearly a decade trying to recover from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by childhood abuse, Jessi Appleton compiled a medical chart that reads like a Chinese restaurant menu. Biofeedback. Neurofeedback. Anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety medication. She tried a popular treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), where she spent hours letting her gaze follow a therapist’s hand as it moved through carefully prescribed patterns. She tried another gaze-based therapy, called brainspotting.

“EMDR helped the most, but I was hitting a wall,” says Appleton. “I was suicidal. I was like this ghost sort of thing, walking through life. And I felt like nothing was going to change.”

Then she tried a new experimental treatment: therapy under the influence of MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. Her therapist suggested she sign up to be part of a pilot study. After three sessions, she said, “I felt like my soul snapped back into place.”

Appleton, 32, was treated in Boulder, Colorado, in a study arranged and funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that has long pursued a strategy of supporting rigorous scientific research into otherwise illegal drugs.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the treatment an important boost, when agency officials met with officials from MAPS to start clearing the way for one or more large-scale research studies. According to Rick Doblin, MAPS’ founder and executive director, officials with the FDA’s Division of Psychiatry Products will not require additional studies prior to launching a Phase 3 trial, a critical round of testing that determines whether a medical treatment can be approved for widespread use.

“It was a very collaborative discussion, in light of the need to develop new treatments for PTSD for veterans and others,” Doblin says. “They recognize that this is a novel treatment, combining psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, and there’s nothing else like it right now.”

The FDA says that federal law and internal regulations prohibit the agency from commenting on studies about pending applications or drugs still in development.

Details will be worked out over the next several months, but Doblin says that Phase 3 is likely to include at least 230 patients treated at roughly a dozen sites around the country.

Doblin and Appleton’s lead therapist, psychotherapist Marcela Ot’alora, say the therapy component is crucial. After a handful of preparatory meetings, the patient takes the drug under the watchful eyes of a two-person treatment team — almost always a man and a woman. Across studies, the dosage varies, but it is typically between 75 and 125mg, enough to trigger a strong experience. Like others, Appleton wore eyeshades and spent several hours lying back on a small couch, mostly in silence.

“It’s a lot of inner dialogue,” Appleton recalls. “Sometimes you’re terrified, sometimes relaxed, sometimes it’s other emotions. It’s intense, and by the end it’s exhausting.”

Ot’alora says her role is mostly supportive. Echoing Appleton’s description, she says the drug seems to help patients let go of their inner critic, or inner demons. “That part of you becomes a witness, saying, ‘This is what’s happening to you, this is what happened to you and this is how it felt.’ It’s very matter of fact.” . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 12:45 pm

Weird contradiction: Trump alleges massive election fraud and Trump supporters try to block recounts

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I totally do not understand this: Donald Trump claims that three million votes were illegally cast by people who were not qualified to vote. Okay: big election problem. So some recounts were undertaken, which seems quite reasonable given the questions Trump raised about the validity of millions of votes. But now Trump supporters do not want a recount.

I don’t get it: if they think many votes were illegal, it seems that a recount is totally in order. Surely they do not want illegal votes counted, do they?

What on earth goes on in their brains?

Here’s the story in the NY Times by Monica Davey, Julie Bosman, and Steve Eder. If you understand why Trump claims fraud and his voters oppose a recount, explain it to me. Maybe they like fraud? (That might explain their support for Trump.)

From the story:

Lawrence J. Tabas, general counsel of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said in an interview on Friday that Ms. Stein’s lawyers had fallen short of demonstrating that there was fraud or illegal action in the Nov. 8 election. “They know they have no claim,” he said.

Is Tabas not paying attention? Trump himself said that their was fraud and illegal action, and fairly substantial fraud and illegal action. I suggest those favoring a recount call Trump as a witness on their behalf. He believes there was fraud.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 11:03 am

Ominous news: Tornado Outbreaks Are on the Rise, and Scientists Don’t Know Why

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It seems likely to me that large-scale changes in weather patterns are likely to be effects of global warming. And, since a majority of those in power (in the GOP, specifically) deny that global warming exists (and either cannot understand or refuse to consider, the evidence that it truly does exist, some of which—the disappearance of glaciers and the warming of the arctic and the rise in sea level—is totally obvious), I doubt that much will be done until it is too late, whereupon those who blocked action will blame the rest of us.

Grennan Milliken reports at Motherboard:

Late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, a dozen tornadoes tore through the southern part of the US, killing 5 people and destroying up to 20 buildings in one town alone in Alabama.

This cluster of tornadoes, all part of one large weather-event, constitute a “tornado outbreak.” These are the most damaging and harmful tornado-related events that can occur. And new research, published today in Science, has found that the frequency and intensity of these deadly tornado outbreaks has nearly doubled in the last 50 years and may continue to do so. Whether these trends are related to climate change or not is unclear, and raises the question as to whether or not global warming may be affecting weather events in ways we don’t understand.

Comprehending how the most extreme tornado outbreaks function and form is a not just a matter of public health, but also a matter of financial security. The first half of 2016 in the U.S. saw $8.5 billion in insured losses due to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. So a team of climate scientists led by Michael K. Tippett of Columbia University analyzed the most intense events on two National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration datasets of tornadoes and meteorological observations related to tornado outbreaks from 1965 to 2015.

They found that the worst outbreaks are containing more tornadoes, and worse, that those outbreaks are growing in intensity faster than the “regular sized” ones. But they can’t determine why this is happening.

Climate change is one guess, but the researchers haven’t found any conclusive signs that it is the culprit. Lead author Michael Tippett told Motherboard that climate models are good for predicting temperature rise, but they can’t say how weather will change. So scientists act like weather forecasters. They look for environments that are favorable to severe storms, and then see if climate change is likely to create more of those storm-friendly environments.

“If it’s climate change, well—we can expect more,” Tippett said. “That’s the bad news scenario. And the good news scenario is if it’s not climate change then we could go back to the way it was earlier. The 80s, let’s say.”

One of the main ingredients for tornadoes, thunderstorms and the like is something called convective available potential energy (CAPE), which refers to warm moist air near the ground surface that ultimately rises up into the atmosphere. Climate projections have said that increases in CAPE will cause more frequent storm-friendly environments, explained Tippett.

But despite the increase in the intensity of tornado outbreaks, “we don’t see these extreme CAPE environments changing” he said. “It’s either not climate change, or it’s something about climate change that we don’t understand.”

Tippett also pointed out that lots of aspects of climate change are unknown. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2016 at 10:57 am

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