Malden news

In local news, the first concrete signs that the old City Hall, police station, and the nearby Church are really being torn down have appeared:

The barriers have been there for a couple weeks and they’ve been working inside the buildings and the stairs between the Church and Police Station were ripped up last week, but this is the first change in the outside that I’ve seen.

The March for Science

The March for Science (you should go if you believe that science is important) is today and so we get stories like this:

That is why, Michel said, he plans to take to the streets (and play his accordion) Saturday at the March for Science in Boston, an offshoot of the main event in Washington and one of hundreds of such marches across the country that aim to celebrate science and champion its role in advancing the health, safety and well-being of society.

The marches are nonpartisan, but have generated criticism that they threaten to turn scientists into another political interest group protesting the new administration, thereby undermining the credibility of scientific research and one of the organizers’ key messages: that science is apolitical.

Science is apolitical, but when one party consistently denies the science when it goes against their beliefs it becomes political. Many, and sometimes most, Republicans don’t believe in global warming or evolution or the problem with certain pesticides (going all the way back to Rachel Carson) or how abortions are performed (and how they affect the woman–it does not cause them to be depressed). And when a man gets elected President who specifically denies global warming, wants to cut money going to all kinds of scientific research, wants to make it harder for scientists to come to the US (either to work or just to come to a conference) and cuts scientists out of the decision making process in multiple departments, then you’re going to get push-back from the scientific community.

President Trump and Republicans have made parts of science political and this should hurt them politically. It hasn’t, partially because of articles like this.

Casual corruption, Trump style

Here’s how you do corruption:

On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump’s will argue, if they bother, that this isn’t illegal because … something. I don’t really care because it obviously is corrupt. If you think that China didn’t do this at least partly to get in good graces with President Trump, then you don’t live in the same world I do. And there’s more:

Instead, the first daughter and her husband have emerged as prominent interlocutors with China, where they have both had significant business ties. Last year, Kushner pursued hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate investments from Anbang Insurance Group, a financial conglomerate with close ties to the Chinese state. After media reports about the deal, talks were called off.

Pure corruption.

Let’s look at the Trump administration

We all heard the cries that liberals needed to give Trump a chance, so let’s look at two departments under Trump.

First let’s look at the EPA under Scott Pruitt:

  • thinks its mission is to help the fossil fuel industry:

This new agenda for the EPA, bitterly opposed by many of the agency’s staff, was unveiled at the Harvey mine in Sycamore, Pennsylvania, on Thursday. Pruitt, who was presented with an honorary mining helmet, said the federal government’s “war” on coal was over in a speech to assembled miners.

“The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around for these miners and for many other hardworking Americans,” said Pruitt.

Though Pruitt insisted that clean air and water will be maintained in this purge, the choice of venue for the announcement was jarring.

Consol Energy, which operates the Bailey Mine complex which includes the Harvey mine, was fined $3m in August for discharging contaminated wastewater into streams that flow into the Ohio river. In the settlement with the EPA and the justice department, it emerged that the mining operation exceeded effluent limits at least 188 times between 2006 and 2015.

He also doesn’t seem to care about pesticides:

The EPA administrator also recently decided to reject the conclusion of his own agency’s scientists who recommended that a widely used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, should be banned from farms.

EPA scientists warned that the pesticides could cause severe harm to children and farm workers, but Pruitt said chlorpyrifos would not be banned in order to provide “regulatory certainty” to businesses.

And he has his priorities straight (bold added):

The EPA has been targeted by the Trump administration for stringent budget cuts. The agency has drawn up a plan that would lay off 25% of its employees and scrap 56 programs, including pesticide safety, lead toxicity and environmental justice. There would be new funding, however, for a 24-hour security detail for Pruitt.

  • He really seems to want increased pollution from coal:

The hulking Gallatin Fossil Plant sits on a scenic bend of the Cumberland River about 30 miles upstream from Nashville. In addition to generating electricity, the plant, built in the early 1950s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, produces more than 200,000 tons of coal residue a year. That coal ash, mixed with water and sluiced into pits and ponds on the plant property, has been making its way into groundwater and the river, potentially threatening drinking water supplies, according to two current lawsuits.

A new rule regulating the monitoring, safe storage and disposal of coal ash went into effect in 2015. This past week, however, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in a letter to a Minnesota environmental official that the agency would reconsider the rule and delay the 2018 compliance deadline for states.

President Trump’s top environment official called Thursday for an exit from the historic Paris agreement, in what appeared to be the first time such a high-ranking official has so explicitly disavowed the agreement endorsed by nearly 200 countries to fight climate change.

Speaking with ‘‘Fox & Friends,’’ Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said, ‘‘Paris is something that we need to really look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in my opinion.’’

‘‘It’s a bad deal for America,’’ Pruitt continued. ‘‘It was an America second, third, or fourth kind of approach. China and India had no obligations under the agreement until 2030. We front-loaded all of our costs.’’

Then there’s Betsy DeVos, that supremely unqualified leader of the Department of Education.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is inexplicably backing away from rules that are meant to prevent federal student loan borrowers from being fleeced by companies the government pays to collect the loans and to guide people through the repayment process.

On Tuesday, she withdrew a sound Obama administration policy that required the Education Department to take into account the past conduct of loan servicing companies before awarding them lucrative contracts — and to include consumer protections in those contracts as well.

A suit brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau claims that Navient saved itself money by steering borrowers into costly repayment strategies that added billions in interest to their balances. But as Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg reported in The Times on Monday, states’ lawsuits are especially damning with respect to Sallie Mae — the company that spun off Navient in 2014.

Most people would think that such a company shouldn’t get more business with the federal government, but not our Secretary of Education.

  • She hired someone even less qualified than she is, which I would have thought was impossible:

The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white.

A longtime anti-Clinton activist and an outspoken conservative-turned-libertarian, she has denounced feminism and race-based preferences. She’s also written favorably about, and helped edit a book by, an economist who decried both compulsory education and the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Now that’s impressive. Scott Pruitt has sued the EPA and Rick Perry now heads an agency he once wanted to get rid of, but the new head of the Education’s Office for Civil Rights has worked for someone who was against the Civil Rights Act and compulsory education. You can see her thinking in these quotes:

“As with most liberal solutions to a problem, giving special assistance to minority students is a band-aid solution to a deep problem,” she wrote. “No one, least of all the minority student, is well served by receiving special treatment based on race or ethnicity.”

“In today’s society, women have the same opportunities as men to advance their careers, raise families, and pursue their personal goals,” she wrote. “College women who insist on banding together by gender to fight for their rights are moving backwards, not forwards.”

It’s almost as if she doesn’t believe racism or sexism exist, which is kind of weird for a head of a civil rights division.

She’s also blatant in her hypocrisy and partisanship:

In 2005, Jackson wrote a book on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton, titled “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine.” She gained national attention last October after she arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Jackson sat with the women in the front of the audience. A few days before the debate, Jackson established Their Lives Foundation. In registration documents, she described two of its purposes as “giving public voice to victims of women who abuse positions of power” and “advocating for and against candidates for political office.”

Less than a week after the debate, Jackson posted on Facebook that her foundation “supports all victims of power abusers,” but labeled Trump’s accusers “fake victims.”

 

This same kind of thing is true in almost every part of the Trump administration, which is why we didn’t want to give Trump a chance. We knew how bad he could be.

We almost got rid of Bannon

It seems that Steve Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council:

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Given that Bannon is an awful person, this is one of the few good pieces of news coming from the Trump administration. It seems we almost got lucky:

Mr. Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward, according to a White House official who, like others, insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mr. Bannon’s camp denied that he had threatened to resign and spent the day spreading the word that the shift was a natural evolution, not a signal of any diminution of his outsize influence.

In fact there needed to be an intervention to keep him:

Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation.

So they really to keep a horrible person in a position of power. To see how horrible, look at Bannon’s explanation for why he left the council:

“Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration,” Mr. Bannon said in a statement, referring to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. “I was put on the N.S.C. with General Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.”

Operationalize is a weird work but it just means to make something operational, which means Bannon left after he had ensured that the council no longer operated.

I’m sure this will end well

Remember when people were saying that Trump might be less of a warmonger than Hillary Clinton? It seems they were wrong:

The Trump administration is exploring how to dismantle or bypass Obama-era constraints intended to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks, commando raids and other counterterrorism missions outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

Already, President Trump has granted a Pentagon request to declare parts of three provinces of Yemen to be an “area of active hostilities” where looser battlefield rules apply. That opened the door to a Special Operations raid in late January in which several civilians were killed, as well as to the largest-ever series of American airstrikes targeting Yemen-based Qaeda militants, starting nearly two weeks ago, the officials said.

Mr. Trump is also expected to sign off soon on a similar Pentagon proposal to designate parts of Somalia to be another such battlefield-style zone for 180 days, removing constraints on airstrikes and raids targeting people suspected of being militants with the Qaeda-linked group the Shabab, they said.

So more attacks with more civilian deaths, that should make the US popular. And we want to arm everybody:

The Trump administration has told Congress it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under President Barack Obama.

Among the steps the Obama administration had sought from Bahrain was the release of Nabeel Rajab, a famed human rights activist who helped lead the 2011 protests. Rajab, whose trial has been repeatedly delayed, awaits sentencing on a charge of spreading ‘‘false news’’ via Twitter over his posts about the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen, as well as allegations of torture by authorities at a local prison.

So sell arms to countries even if they’re dictators who imprison their citizens on trumped up charges. Yup, that will make the US popular.

And despite the increase in attacks, there are no real plans for what happens after (shades of the Bush administration):

The United States launched more airstrikes in Yemen this month than during all of last year. In Syria, it has airlifted local forces to front-line positions, and has been accused of killing civilians in airstrikes. In Iraq, US troops and aircraft are central in supporting an urban offensive in Mosul, where airstrikes killed scores of people on March 17.

Robert Malley, a former senior official in the Obama administration and now vice president for policy at the International Crisis Group, said the uptick in military involvement since Trump took office did not appear to have been accompanied by increased planning for the day after potential military victories.

“The military will be the first to tell you that a military operation is only as good as the diplomatic and political plan that comes with it,” Malley said.

The lack of diplomacy and planning for the future in such places as Yemen and Syria could render victories there by the United States and its allies unsustainable.

Plans have been announced to send 300 US Marines to Helmand province, their first deployment there since 2014. And the US commander, General John W. Nicholson Jr., told Congress in February he would like another “few thousand” American and coalition troops.

So we’re going to be sending more troops to: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, and I’m sure many other countries. I was worried about this under Obama but at least Obama was cautious and was pulling back troops. Trump seems eager to start wars everywhere and at the same time seems determined to piss off all our allies (Australia, Germany, the UK, …). It’s not going to be pretty.

I wonder if Lake Erie will die again

Donald Trump has decided that fossil fuels trump the environment:

The far-reaching order he unveiled Tuesday instructs federal regulators to rewrite key Obama-era rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions — namely the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s electric plants. It also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

In sum, it amounts to a wholesale rebuke of Obama’s environmental efforts.

Several of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to change broader economic trends that are pushing the nation toward cleaner sources of energy than coal. But the order sent an unmistakable message about the direction in which Trump wants to take the country — toward unfettered oil and gas production, with an apathetic eye to worries over global warming.

This is stupid in terms of jobs because the number of jobs in the renewable energy is increasing:

Clean energy jobs have seen incredible growth in recent years, with solar and wind jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. According to a 2015 report from the Environmental Defense Fund, renewable energy jobs in the United States enjoyed a 6 percent compound annual growth rate between 2012 and 2015. Fossil fuel jobs, by contrast, had a negative 4.5 percent compound annual growth rate over the same time period. And, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s fastest growing profession over the next decade is likely to be a wind turbine technician.

so this statement is true but in a stupid way:

“This is an important moment for EPA,” chief of staff Ryan Jackson wrote. “As the Administrator has mentioned many times, we do not have to choose between environmental protection and economic development.”

The Trump administration didn’t want to choose which, the environment or economic development, to make worse so it chose both.

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