Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Boomtown, Flood Town

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Do read this extremely well presented ProPublica report that exemplifies how the short-term thinking that’s involved in “looting” is going to have pretty horrible long-term consequences for a lot of people.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 December 2016 at 1:59 pm

How crony can capitalism be? Pickers to the EPA.

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Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner write at Reuters:

Donald Trump will pick an ardent opponent of President Barack Obama’s measures to curb climate change as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a Trump transition team source said on Wednesday, a choice that enraged green activists and cheered the oil industry.

Trump’s choice, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, fits neatly with the Republican president-elect’s promise to cut back the EPA and free up drilling and coal mining, and signals the likely rollback of much of Obama’s environmental agenda.

Since becoming the top prosecutor for the major oil and gas producing state in 2011, Pruitt has launched multiple lawsuits against regulations put forward by the agency he is now poised to lead, suing to block federal measures to reduce smog and curb toxic emissions from power plants.

He is also a leading figure in a legal effort by several states to throw out the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Obama’s climate change strategy that requires states to curb carbon output.

In an interview with Reuters in September, Pruitt said he sees the Clean Power Plan as a form of federal “coercion and commandeering” of energy policy and that his state should have “sovereignty to make decisions for its own markets.”

Pruitt, 48, has also said he is skeptical of climate change. In an opinion piece in an Oklahoma newspaper this year, he wrote that he believes the debate over global warming is “far from settled” and that scientists continue to disagree on the issue. An overwhelming majority of scientists around the world say manmade emissions are warming the planet.

The Obama administration finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015 as a key part of meeting U.S. obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, an accord among nearly 200 countries to curb global warming. Many scientists say warming is causing rising sea levels, drought, and an increase in ferocious storms.

Trump vowed during his campaign to pull the United States out of the Paris deal, saying it would put American businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Since the election, however, Trump has said he will keep an “open mind” about the climate deal, and also met with leading climate change activist and former Vice President Al Gore. [L1N1E025U] . . .

Continue reading.

It’s gonna get worse—much worse. This is where overt looting takes over: strip the government of its assets, in effect, and facilitating the takeover of the Federal government by private corporations. They already had Congress and a lot of the judiciary, and now they have the Executive branch, too. They are going to make some serious money.

Note again the charts in the Kevin Drum post I mentioned earlier today.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 December 2016 at 1:11 pm

A look at income inequality in the US and France

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Kevin Drum has two very interesting charts that are well worth a look. It seems as though Congress is betraying its public trust and the American people.

Also note the emergence of crony capitalism in the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 December 2016 at 10:09 am

A clear-sighted look at the “Replace” part of “Repeal and Replace (in same session)”, based on industry feedback

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Kevin Drum has a very solid post here. Read the whole thing. The conclusion:

. . .Here’s the case for laughing: the insurance industry says it’s OK with repealing Obamacare, but we should maintain the pre-existing conditions ban, the individual mandate, the subsidies for low-income families, and the Medicaid expansion. Needless to say, that is Obamacare.

Here the case for crying: “The market has already been a little wobbly this year,” Tavenner said. If it looks like any of these four provisions are going to be repealed with nothing to replace them, insurers will simply pull out of the market at the “next logical opportunity.” That would be about six months from now.

And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a good chance this doesn’t just mean pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges. If the mandate and the subsidies go away, but the pre-existing conditions ban stays in place, insurers might very well pull out of the individual market entirely. Republicans are playing with fire here, and it’s not clear if they even know it. Someone in the insurance biz really needs to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with them.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2016 at 6:04 pm

Walter Scott and the presumption of guilt for black Americans

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Steven Hale reports in the Washington Post:

To blame the jury that deadlocked and prompted a mistrial Monday in the case of a white South Carolina police officer who shot Walter Scott dead, hitting him withfive bullets as Scott fled a routine traffic stop, is to miss the larger, grotesque point.

It is a point that activists and people of color have been attesting to, and protesting about, for decades now. The point is, simply, that the presumption of innocence, a cornerstone of our criminal-justice system, at least in theory, is rivaled by another American tradition — the presumption of guilt that weighs upon black Americans and the devastatingly disproportionate punishments it wreaks upon its victims. It can be seen in the way black men are so often described as hyper-aggressive superhuman threats by prosecutors looking to convict them or police officers seeking to justify a use of force against them.

Still, that 12 jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on what would seem to be as clear cut a case as a jury is likely to see is baffling. It must be noted that all the jurors except for one were white. Still, this case had video footage of a police officer calmly raising his gun, carefully taking aim and firing multiple rounds into the back of a fleeing, unarmed man and then handcuffing him as he lay on the ground. Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager claimed that he was in “total fear” during a struggle between the two men and that Scott had grabbed his Taser. But he was captured on video placing his Taser next to Scott’s lifeless body after the shooting.

One must wonder: What detail could be added to make Slager look more guilty of Scott’s murder — or at the very least, of manslaughter, an option that was available to the jury?

It forces one, yet again, to confront the overwhelming evidence that this is a feature of our criminal-justice system, not a bug.

A Post investigation in 2015 found that out of thousands of fatal shootings by police since 2005, only 54 officers were even charged, with most of them being cleared or acquitted. A massive investigation by Charleston’s Post and Courier found similarly that African Americans were disproportionately the victims of police shootings and that subsequent investigations of those shootings heavily favored the police. Here at The Watch, Radley Balko has dug into South Carolina’s poisonous police culture.

I asked Seth Stoughton, a former police officer who is an assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina, for his reaction to the mistrial. . .

Continue reading.

If a police officer feels great fear from a man running away from him, then that police officer should find another job. A person fleeing from you should not cause you to be afraid.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2016 at 12:05 pm

Does the Pentagon Really Waste $125 Billion on Pencil Pushers? Probably not

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Keven Drum casts a skeptical eye on the $125 billion “waste” at the Pentagon. It looks a lot like a consulting company trying to drum up business with phony figures and bogus estimates. Read his post here. His post begins:

The Washington Post has a big article up tonight about military waste:

Pentagon hid study exposing $125 billion in wasteful spending

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post….The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel.

Hmmm. I have some doubts about this. For starters, that $125 billion over five years. That comes to $25 billon per year, or about 4 percent of the defense budget. That’s not peanuts, but it hardly seems big enough to represent “far more wasteful spending than expected,” as the article says.

But that’s not the main thing that makes me skeptical about this. My big problem is that this is a McKinsey report, and I have a fairly cynical view of McKinsey-driven “process improvement” blather. For example, the report suggests that the Pentagon can save loads of money by increasing its back-office productivity by 4-8 percent per year. “Private sector industries commonly show similar gains,” they say merrily, so why not the Pentagon?

This is exactly the kind of thing that gives business consultants a bad name. Do private sector businesses really show routine annual productivity gains like this in their back-office operations? I doubt it very much. And even if they do, can the federal government do the same things that private industry does? Hard to say. In any case, it turns out that McKinsey’s biggest finding is that the Pentagon is spending more on its contracts than it should. Here’s how they propose to fix this: . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2016 at 10:36 am

A bad headline to see: “The Companies Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline Don’t Think They’ve Lost”

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The article by Daniel Gross appears in Slate:

n Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers seemed to hand a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux and their fellow protesters, who have been campaigning to stop the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota. After delaying a decision on Nov. 14, a week after the election, the Army Corps has now said it won’t grant an easement for the pipeline to travel beneath a dammed portion of the Missouri River. The parties behind the Dakota Access Pipeline should look into alternative routes, the corps said.

But the saga is far from over. In fact, the reaction by the two companies constructing the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, was telling. Dismissing the ruling as a “purely political action” that was part of the Obama administration’s desire to avoid making a final decision on the project, the companies insisted it would have no bearing on their plans whatsoever. They said they are “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

In other words, the companies believe that they, not the government nor the Native American tribes whose land could be impacted by the pipeline, make the decision. They’ve deemed the ruling illegitimate because it was made by an administration with which they disagree, and they signaled they will move ahead regardless. Investors seem to agree. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2016 at 2:47 pm

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