Later On

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

Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

Trump Pushed for a Sweetheart Tax Deal on His First Hotel. It’s Cost New York City $410,068,399 and Counting.

leave a comment »

Andrea Bernstein reports in ProPublica:

In 1975, New York City was run-down and on the verge of bankruptcy. Twenty-nine-year-old Donald Trump saw an opportunity. He wanted to acquire and redevelop the dilapidated Commodore Hotel in midtown Manhattan next to Grand Central Terminal.

Trump had bragged to the executive controlling the sale that he could use his political connections to get tax breaks for the deal.

The executive was skeptical. But the next day, the executive was invited into Trump’s limousine, which ushered him to City Hall. There, he met with Donald’s father Fred and Mayor Abe Beame, to whom the Trumps had given lavishly.

Beame put his arm around the Trumps. “Anything they want, they get,” Beame said, as recounted by Trump’s first biographer, journalist Wayne Barrett.

Trump got an unprecedented 40-year tax break. According to new figures given to us by the New York City Department of Taxation and Finance, the break has cost the city $410,068,399.55 in forgone revenue to Trump and the hotel’s subsequent owners. The break ends this April.

In “The Art of the Deal,” Trump said there was a reason for the 40-year deal: “Because I didn’t ask for 50.”

Trump got it over the misgivings of some state officials. The former chairman of the state economic development agency, Richard Ravitch, recalled in an interview that Trump approached him in December 1975. Trump, who had ties to Gov. Hugh Carey, “started raising his voice, and threatening me, and said, ‘If you don’t give me a tax abatement, I’m going to have you fired.’ I said, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’”

Ravitch was not fired, but the state agency did approve the break. Trump has said the decision was made on the merits.

“Really the story of Donald Trump, rather than this Horatio Alger figure, this is a guy who managed to learn how to turn politics into money,” said Barrett during a 1992 WNYC interview, the same one in which he told the Beame story. (Barrett died on Jan. 19, 2017, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2020 at 12:23 pm

Facebook allows pro-Trump Super PAC to lie in ads

leave a comment »

Facebook is becoming a serious problem. Judd Legum reports at Popular Information:

Facebook has taken a lot of criticism, including from its employees, for its policy to allow politicians and political parties to lie in ads. It’s a policy that puts Facebook in a position to directly profit from political misinformation. And it gives the green light to the Trump campaign to mislead the public.

But the policy only applies to political candidates and political parties. By the terms of the policy, therefore, most accounts that run political ads still cannot include claims debunked by Facebook’s third-party fact checkers.

Facebook’s policies specifically state that “organizations like Super PACs or advocacy organizations that are unaffiliated with candidates” are subject to fact-checking.

But Facebook is allowing a major pro-Trump Super PAC, the Committee to Defend the President, to run ads with lies. The Committee to Defend the President, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is one of the “two biggest non-party outside spenders of this cycle.”

Since Saturday, the Committee to Defend the President is running multiple ads that claim former Vice President Joe Biden is “a criminal who used his power as Vice President to make him and his son RICH.”

This claim is false, according to Facebook’s own fact-checking partners. PolitiFact, which is part of Facebook’s fact-checking program, wrote in September that “Hunter Biden did do work in Ukraine, but we found nothing to suggest Vice President Biden acted to help him.” Another Facebook fact-checking partner, FactCheck.org, named Trump’s suggestion that Biden did anything improper with respect to Ukraine one of its “Whoppers of the Year.”

In response to an inquiry about the Biden ads by the Committee to Defend the President, a Facebook spokesperson said it was entirely up to its fact-checking partners whether to evaluate the ad. And, thus far, none of them have chosen to do so. The fact that the ads contain a claim already debunked by its fact-checking partners does not matter. Facebook will only remove these ads if one of its fact-checking partners independently reviews them.

Popular Information is very much worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2020 at 9:11 am

What Impeachment Is Revealing About the Republican Party

leave a comment »

Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of Lawfare, and Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of Lawfare, wrote in the Atlantic in November 2019:

The House Intelligence Committee brought impeachment onto the public stage over the past two weeks. But now Congress has scattered for Thanksgiving, cable news is picking over the remnants of the hearings in search of content, the president is fuming, and impeachment has moved into a murky new phase, the parameters of which are not entirely clear.

So what happens next?

The public hearings lurched from physical comedy to riveting seriousness to bleak warnings about the corrosive effects of conspiracy theories on American democracy. The hearings provided new information—including the extent to which the Ukrainian government suspected a possible extortion attempt by the United States early on in President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign, along with the phone call between Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which Trump personally asked whether he was going to get his “investigations.”

But the public proceedings largely dramatized the story that we already knew about Trump’s coercive efforts with respect to Ukraine. Witness after witness made it obvious: The president was attempting to force Ukraine to announce sham investigations that would benefit Trump politically, in exchange for a White House visit and hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid. There were a lot of witnesses. They were credible. And they were, individually and collectively, damning.

There are more key witnesses, those who didn’t show up: former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, for example, both of whom would seem to have a great deal to say about the effort to shake down the Ukrainians but who have so far refused to play ball with House investigators. Mulvaney has defied a House subpoena; Bolton, after some hemming and hawing, seems to have settled on a strategy of coyly hinting at the damaging stories he has to tell while promoting his upcoming book on Twitter. Assuming these witnesses don’t roll out of bed next week and decide to testify after all, we are probably nearly done with the House’s evidence-gathering phase of the impeachment inquiry and moving into a more evaluative phase.

What can we expect that to look like?

The first step is for Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to figure out how he wants to refer the impressive quantity of testimony he has amassed to the Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for writing any articles of impeachment.

Under the resolution on impeachment passed by the House of Representatives in late October, the Intelligence Committee takes the lead on the investigative stage of the impeachment proceedings—which is why the hearings so far have taken place under Schiff’s lead. It’s now Schiff’s job to “set … forth [the committee’s] findings and any recommendations and appending any information and materials,” which he must prepare alongside the chairs of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. (These other committees have played a less public role in the inquiry so far, but have participated in the closed depositions of witnesses and the issuing of subpoenas.) That report will then go to the House Judiciary Committee, which has the task of drafting articles of impeachment to submit to the full House for a vote.

The work of producing this report could be as crude as schlepping a pile of transcripts from the office of one committee to that of another, supplementing it with minimal commentary. But Schiff will likely want to do some kind of shaping of the record before putting it in the hands of Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler. Just as Independent Counsel Ken Starr crafted the Starr Report, documenting President Bill Clinton’s misconduct, Schiff would be well advised to distill out of the material he has amassed some kind of narrative account of what happened and what it all means.

Controversial though it is, the narrative section of the Starr Report is actually not a bad model; it is both readable and rigorous. While Starr’s report received a great deal of criticism for being salacious and overly detailed, and many people believed the offenses it described did not amount to impeachment-worthy material, nobody has ever made a serious argument that the facts Starr recounted in it were untrue. It’s also a bit of a page-turner. Schiff does not have a lot of time, but creating a compelling referral to the Judiciary Committee that tells the story in a rigorous way is the first key step.

Once the Judiciary Committee has what we might call the Schiff Report, however, it is by no means limited to that material in shaping articles of impeachment. The House resolution specifically provides for the Judiciary Committee to undertake its own investigative work, conducting hearings and issuing subpoenas as needed. So the next big questions will be how much Nadler wants to stick to the Ukraine scandal—which, presumably, Schiff’s production will focus on—and how much he wants to branch out into other areas.

The obvious candidate here is Trump’s conduct as described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report: In fact, House General Counsel Douglas Letter indicated to a federal court just last week that, as part of its impeachment probe, the House is investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller. And a federal district judge has said that she will rule today on whether the Judiciary Committee will be able to compel testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn regarding events set out in Mueller’s report.

The challenge for Nadler will be to prevent mission creep. Trump’s behavior over the course of his presidency is such that there is actually no shortage of impeachable offenses from which Nadler can choose. What about Trump’s alleged repeated offers of pardons to border officials in exchange for breaking immigration and asylum law—behavior that, if confirmed, would almost certainly violate the president’s constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”? What about the thousands of young children separated from their parents at the border? What about emoluments? What about the illicit payments to the adult-film star Stormy Daniels—which resulted in a guilty plea by Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen—and, for that matter, what about the allegations of sexual harassment and rape against the president?

The contours of what fulfills the constitutional definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which a president can be impeached are open to argument. Time also presents a pressing question. How quickly does the Judiciary Committee want to move, and how narrowly does it want to focus in order to keep things speeding forward? How much does it want to expose itself to charges of making impeachable offenses out of policy differences or out of relatively small matters?

Once the articles of impeachment are drafted, it’s time to vote—first in the Judiciary Committee and then on the House floor. These votes may play a key role in the process of winnowing the articles. If Nadler successfully does the winnowing himself and persuades Democrats to keep the articles narrowly focused on the Ukraine matter, perhaps with some material from the Mueller investigation included as well, we could be looking at a small number of party-line votes, in which Democrats pass and Republicans object to just two or three articles of impeachment.

The other possibility is that Nadler could use this process as his means of establishing the limiting principles. During the Clinton impeachment, the House actually voted on four articles, passing only two. Allowing a relatively open article-drafting process has the dual benefits of letting Democrats submit to judgment a wider range of Trump’s misdeeds and also potentially reducing the partisanship of the affair. If some members want to vote on articles of impeachment on payments to Daniels, a few Democrats might team up with the Republicans to kill them, either in committee or on the floor—thereby establishing that the House majority isn’t hell-bent on impeaching Trump for anything and everything.

But this strategy also has a big risk—that of letting impeachment spin out of control. What if Democrats end up finding it hard to vote against articles and thus end up sending a raft of them over to the Senate? The task of the House, which has to present its case against Trump before the senators, becomes substantially more difficult if the articles involve diverse charges, arguable facts, or matters the president’s defenders can reasonably cast as legitimate exercises of the presidency’s broad powers.

Things get even murkier when the articles—whatever they end up including—land in the Senate chamber. The Senate’s rules for impeachment trials are an odd combination of the highly specific and the maddeningly vague. On the one hand, they specify the precise time of day the impeachment trial shall go into session the day after the House members appointed to manage the trial march into the Senate chamber and present the articles the House has passed (1:00 pm, in case you were wondering—unless it’s a Sunday). On the other hand, they don’t specify rules of evidence, leaving almost everything of substance initially to the judgment of Chief Justice John Roberts and ultimately to the judgment of 51 members of the body, the vote required to overrule Roberts on a wide variety of motions.

In other words, the course of the Senate trial will ultimately depend on two variables that are, at this stage, mysterious. The first is how Roberts understands his own role as the trial’s presiding officer. The rules permit the chief justice to be—if he chooses—quite activist in ruling on evidentiary motions and the like, subject to being overturned by a vote of the Senate itself. The rules also permit him to be—if he chooses—quite passive; he’s entitled simply to submit such matters to the vote of the body itself in the first instance. So one key question is what role Roberts himself thinks he should play.

The other question is whether . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 January 2020 at 8:29 pm

Trump Says U.S. Is Ready for War. Not All His Troops Are So Sure.

leave a comment »

T. Christian Miller, Megan Rose, and Robert Faturechi report in ProPublica:

Between the killing of Iran’s most important general and Iran’s missiles hurtling toward American troops in Iraq, President Donald Trump took time to discuss America’s military prowess.

“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment,” he tweeted on Jan. 5. “If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way.”

Besides being wrong (the military has not spent that much), he repeated a mistake that military leaders have made for years: emphasizing weapons over the fitness of the men and women charged with firing them.

Over the past 18 months, ProPublica has dug into military accidents in recent years that, all told, call into question just how prepared the American military is to fight America’s battles.

If forced to fight in the Persian Gulf or the Korean Peninsula, the Navy and Marine Corps are likely to play crucial roles in holding strategic command of the sea and defending against ballistic missiles.

Those branches, though, do not need billions of dollars of new weapons, our examination revealed. They need to focus on the basics: its service members, their training and their equipment.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog, has been sounding the alarm for years, to little effect. In 2016, the GAO found that years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan had taken their toll: “The military services have reported persistently low readiness levels.”

In 2018, the agency focused on the Navy and Marine Corps. All seven types of aircraft it tracked, from cargo planes to fighters like the F/A-18D, had repeatedly missed goals for being prepared for missions. “Aviation readiness will take many years to recover,” the GAO said.

In a report last month, the GAO found that only about 25% of Navy shipyard repairs were completed on time. “The Navy continues to face persistent and substantial maintenance delays that affect the majority of its maintenance efforts and hinder its attempts to restore readiness,” it said.

The services’ problems with readiness burst into public view in the summer of 2017, when two American destroyers collided with two commercial ships in separate incidents that left 17 sailors dead and scores injured. They were the Navy’s worst accidents at sea since the 1970s.

Both the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain were deployed to the 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan. What both ships needed, ProPublica found, was more time to train and more sailors.

Neither ship was fully qualified for its battle missions; neither ship had a full crew; both ships had patched together navigation systems that failed to work at times.

Sailors on both ships described being shortchanged in training and exhausted by the pace of operations. One-hundred-hour work weeks were not uncommon.

On the Fitzgerald, for instance, a sailor had to manually press a button more than 1,000 times to refresh a radar screen tracking nearby traffic. On the evening of the collision on June 17, the Fitzgerald was under the control of a relatively inexperienced officer who ordered the destroyer to turn directly into the path of a cargo carrier.

On the McCain, the Navy had installed a touch-screen navigation system as a cheaper alternative to traditional steering wheels and throttles. The design of the new system was so confusing that the sailors using it accidentally guided the McCain into an oil tanker in the Singapore Strait on Aug. 21.

Dakota Bordeaux, the young sailor steering the ship, said of the new navigation system, “There was actually a lot of functions on there that I had no clue what on earth they did.”

It was not that the Navy was unaware of the problems. Top commanders had simply ignored urgent messages for help. Military leaders wanted missions completed. They cared less about whether the men and women on duty were forced to cut corners to do them.

In January 2013, Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman issued a warning at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, one of the premier gatherings of Navy officers in charge of warships. Readiness, he said, was headed toward a “downward spiral.”

“It’s getting harder and harder I think for us to look the troops in the eye,” Copeman told the audience.

“If you’re an admiral in the Navy,” he later told ProPublica, “you may have to make that decision to send people into combat, and you better not have blood on your hands the rest of your life because you didn’t do everything you could in peacetime to make them ready.”

The Navy’s surface forces needed $3.5 billion, he said, just to fix what was wrong with training alone. Copeman raised the specter of a “hollow” Navy without those additional funds.

Three years later Janine Davidson, the undersecretary of the Navy, sounded the alarm again. The Navy remained short of adequately trained sailors and reliable ships.

“It’s sleepwalking into a level of risk you don’t realize you have,” she said to ProPublica.

The 7th Fleet, the largest of the Navy’s forward-deployed fleets, was perhaps most vulnerable. In 2017, top officers laid out the armada’s dire conditions for its senior commander, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin.

Training was down. Certifications, which crews received after proving they were prepared to handle crucial war-fighting duties, had dropped from 93% completed in 2014 to 62% in 2016. That year, only two of the fleet’s 11 destroyers and cruisers received all recommended maintenance. One ship got only a quarter of its scheduled upkeep.

Aucoin sent the assessment to the top brass. But the portrait of crisis got him nothing.

Low-level officers on the decks of ships and high-ranking leaders up the chain of command said they made similar warnings and were shut down. Scores of sailors reached out to us and testified to some combination of fear, lack of training and an absence of confidence in the Navy’s leadership.

“If the Navy paid more attention to the job satisfaction and intrinsic motivation of sailors, then a lot of these other systemic issues will fix themselves,” one sailor wrote.

We examined other Navy episodes directly relevant to today’s situation with Iran. In 2016, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2020 at 1:22 pm

Kentucky’s high-speed internet seems problematic

leave a comment »

Earlier I blogged a report in the New Yorker about the success of Kentucky’s initiative to bring high-speed internet to rural areas. Apparently, that report was cherry-picking a success story, not the general trend.  Alfred Miller of the Louisville Courier-Journal reports in ProPublica:

A year ago, Mary Lou Muncy landed her dream job advising home health care agencies on wound care.

The timing seemed perfect. Muncy’s contract as a nurse at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Lexington had ended, and she wasn’t ready to retire. With an annual salary of $77,000, Muncy would have enough money to help her daughter pay for medical school.

But the position required high-speed internet access, which Muncy didn’t have on her farm, an hour’s drive from Lexington, the state’s second largest city.

So, Muncy gave up the job. She hasn’t found another since.

“I realized there was no hope for us,” said Muncy, 64, who after losing the position wrote a letter to state lawmakers begging them to move quickly on a plan for broadband access in rural communities. Muncy hoped to spare other residents the helplessness she felt when she was forced to turn away employment.

KentuckyWired, the much-heralded plan to improve internet connectivity across the state, promised to create financial opportunities through reliable, high-speed internet access for rural communities that have repeatedly been hammered by the loss of jobs in the coal and tobacco industries.

But the project is stalled and its future looks increasingly bleak because of a number of missteps by state officials and Macquarie Capital, the Australian investment bank managing the ambitious plan, the Louisville Courier Journal and ProPublica have reported.

In the next few months, the state’s new governor, Andy Beshear, will have to make key decisions on the direction of KentuckyWired, which is already two years behind schedule and could cost $1.5 billion over the next 30 years.

Beshear, a Democrat who was elected in November, has repeatedly declined to say what he plans to do as impatient lawmakers threaten to block funding. A spokeswoman for his office said he is still receiving briefings and information related to the project, which began under the gubernatorial administration of his father, Steve Beshear.

Meanwhile, the project that promised so much to residents in rural communities has yet to deliver, and it’s unclear if and when it will.

“It’s becoming a pretty dire situation for some folks here who had hoped to build businesses around access to high-speed internet,” said state Rep. Angie Hatton, a Democrat who represents Letcher County, where the median household income is about $30,000 annually and 31% of the population lives in poverty.

Rural Kentucky Keeps Getting Left Behind

Rural Kentucky has long grappled with crippling poverty and high unemployment rates. In 2020, 38 counties in eastern Kentucky were deemed economically distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The state’s ambitious broadband internet plan was not meant to solve all the needs in rural communities. Still, state leaders said it would help bring a wave of high-tech jobs to the region and provide residents better opportunities to start their own businesses given the lack of companies investing in such areas.

But residents, some of whom don’t know about KentuckyWired, are still waiting.

Erica Scott, a mother of two who lives in Defeated Creek, a tiny community in rural Letcher County, said the unavailability of high-speed internet makes it difficult to run her online business.

Scott said it can take hours to download the designs she needs for the T-shirts and candles she sells online, slowing production and delivery to customers.

The satellite internet service she has isn’t even fast enough for her children to access their schoolwork from home via Google Classroom, a web application teachers use to post assignments and communicate with students. They’ve had to get special permission to complete their homework on paper during snow days, which further hamper already spotty internet.

“We’re not the only ones,” Scott said. Still, she added, in Kentucky’s mountain hollows, or hollers as they are known, “it’s a real job to get internet.”

Rural Kentucky’s steep hills and thick forests make the installation of fiber-optic cable difficult and costly.

One in 11 Kentuckians — roughly 405,000 mostly rural residents — have no wired broadband service in their area, according to Federal Communications Commission data. For those who do have internet access, it’s either too slow or simply unaffordable.

“Remember the old dial up?” said Defeated Creek resident Adam Smith, imitating the antiquated swish and beep sounds familiar to former AOL users. “That slow internet? That’s fast for us.”

KentuckyWired’s new proposed completion date is nine months away. Even if the state meets that deadline, many rural residents won’t have immediate access to broadband.

The project is installing fiber-optic cable that will bring broadband to state agencies across Kentucky, but in order for individual homes and businesses to tap into the new network, third-party providers still need to hang the so-called last mile. And many of those providers are reluctant to make plans without first knowing how much the state’s private-sector partner, Macquarie, will charge for access to the network.

“That might be another 10 years or 20 years while all that last mile stuff gets built,” said Doug Dawson, a telecommunications consultant based in North Carolina.

The wait may be too long for Mike Joseph, a lifelong resident of Yeadiss, an unincorporated community in rural Leslie County.

Joseph, 55, said after his father purchased a house in London, Kentucky, he no longer had family in the area. His wife of 18 years suggested that they move to Harlan in southeastern Kentucky near the Virginia border, where they own a rental property and where broadband is available.

“That’s the deciding factor on us moving, better internet,” said Joseph, a maintenance and IT supervisor at the Leslie County jail, which relies on the internet for communication and pays nearly $1,700 per month for a sluggish connection.

It’s money that could be used for better vehicles and better salaries, Joseph said.

At least one third-party provider, Vernon Engle, who owned B&B Communications, started stringing fiber in Joseph’s county in anticipation of KentuckyWired.

Engle said he spent tens of thousands of dollars to do so while he awaited the opportunity to tap into the network.

But Engle said he was forced to sell his business last year at a $340,000 loss after the state blew past its July 31 completion deadline.

“The state failed me,” Engle said.

“Darned if You Fund It and You’re Darned if You Don’t”

Uncertainty over the plan for KentuckyWired has lawmakers clamoring for action from the governor as they field questions from frustrated rural residents.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, said  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 January 2020 at 12:52 pm

These Emails Show a Trump Official Helping Her Former Chemical Industry Colleagues

leave a comment »

The epitome of corruption, reported in Pro Publica by Derek Kravitz for ProPublica, and Emily HoldenThe Guardian:

In 2017, Dow Chemical scored a long-sought-after victory: After a push from the U.S. government, China approved the import of the company’s genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn seeds.

A grateful Dow lobbyist emailed a senior Agriculture Department official whose support had been critical: “Thank you for your efforts in support of U.S. agriculture.”

That official, Rebeckah Adcock, was no stranger to Dow. Before joining the Trump administration, Adcock was the chief lobbyist for the herbicide industry’s trade group, of which Dow was a prominent member.

Adcock had helped her former industry colleagues in a variety of ways. At Dow’s request, for example, she had arranged a meeting between a top company official and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue about the seed issue.

Before the May 2017 meeting, a Dow lobbyist emailed Adcock: “Do you know who will staff the secretary?”

Adcock wrote back, playfully, “Yes and u do too.”

“Roger,” the lobbyist, Hunt Shipman, replied. Then he joked about the potential conflict of a public servant helping former colleagues: “Maybe you can have a chair on both sides of the table…maybe you can staff them both? :)”

Adcock isn’t the only lobbyist who has made her way to the federal government. Roughly one of every 14 appointments in the Trump administration has been a lobbyist. But previously unreported emails show Adcock repeatedly trading notes with industry players to craft policy.

“It’s highly inappropriate conduct,” said Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel for the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Canter worked as an ethics attorney in the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The emails were recently obtained by the Sierra Club and the liberal freedom of information group American Oversight. The groups requested the communications in response to a ProPublica and New York Times investigation that revealed the industry ties of Adcock and other administration officials.

All federal employees are subject to standards of conduct that require them to be impartial and to seek authorization before participating in matters where their impartiality is likely to be questioned.

“As a U.S. official, she cannot represent any person’s interest other than the [U.S. government’s] in matters in which U.S. interests are at stake,” Canter said.

Like other officials, Adcock had signed a Trump administration ethics agreement, promising to avoid conflicts of interest. But the agreement gave Adcock wide berth, allowing her to offer help to Dow and other clients of the herbicide and pesticide trade group she worked for.

Adcock did not respond to requests for comment. Dow declined to comment.

The Agriculture Department said in a statement that “Ms. Adcock has acted in accordance with her ethics agreement” because she was employed by the industry’s trade group instead of by Dow directly.

Adcock enjoys a broad mandate at the Agriculture Department. She initially ran a team responsible for rolling back regulations deemed overly burdensome to industry. Since then, she has become a close confidante of Perdue, and she has been involved in everything from coordinating Perdue’s 2018 rural bus tour in support of an expansive new farm bill to reinterpreting the federal Clean Water Act.

Industry players have asked Adcock to reach down into the bureaucracy on even small issues. After a farmer in rural northern Illinois filled and graded a tributary and cleared four acres of forest along a government-protected creek, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened him with fines of up to $37,500 per day until it was improved to the government’s liking, Don Parrish, a senior director at the American Farm Bureau Federation, contacted Adcock.

Emails show Parrish and Adcock repeatedly emailed about a section of the Clean Water Act that prevents companies from draining or filling wetlands and tributaries that flow into navigable water. Adcock told Parrish she was “getting answers” to his questions. It’s unclear if the farmer had to pay any fines. . .

Continue reading.

The US government — federal and state — is badly (hopelessly?) broken and corrupt. The decline is now well underay.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2020 at 8:39 pm

Are Manufacturing Workers in High Demand?

leave a comment »

Apparently not: Kevin Drum has a good post that shows there’s not enough demand to increase the price (i.e., wages). Drum writes:

The Wall Street Journal reports that American manufacturers are having a hard time finding workers:

Half a million U.S. factory jobs are unfilled, the most in nearly two decades, and the unemployment rate is hovering at a 50-year low, the Labor Department said Friday. At the same time, Americans are moving around the country at the lowest rate in at least 70 years.

To entice workers to move, manufacturers are raising wages, offering signing bonuses and covering relocation costs, including for some hourly positions….“We’ve had to get very aggressive with talent acquisition,” said Michael Winn, chief executive of Columbus Hydraulics Co., which makes parts for Doosan Bobcat Inc. and The Toro Co. “We are having to draw people in from distant places.”

….“The war on talent: It’s there. It’s real,” said Brad Kendall, a human-resources executive at Allegion.

Well, offering higher wages ought to do the trick. But is that really happening? It sure doesn’t look like it.:

I get that the bonuses and moving expenses aren’t available to everyone. Ditto for the higher wages. But generally speaking, blue-collar manufacturing wages have been growing more slowly than overall blue-collar wages for the past two years. It’s hard to believe that the manufacturing sector is truly “getting aggressive” or waging a “war on talent” if they aren’t even keeping up with the overall economy, let alone beating it.

A basic look at wages is something you should always see in articles about employers having difficulty recruiting workers. The Journal article includes a chart that shows manufacturing wage growth, but it very deliberately doesn’t adjust for inflation and doesn’t compare manufacturing to overall wage growth. Why? Probably because  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2020 at 7:04 pm

%d bloggers like this: