More political correctness

For some reason, career employees in the federal government don’t much like President Trump:

Trump’s frequent attacks on the “deep state” have engendered deep distrust between career and political employees, pushing many long-time civil servants toward the exits and raising the possibility of a government-wide brain drain.

And while some workers, such as Border Patrol agents, are feeling newly empowered under Trump, morale at other agencies is so low that some employees said they were suffering from increased anxiety and depression that has complicated their personal relationships and even led to heavier drinking.

Several career employees said they were keeping their heads down and ignoring possible avenues for promotions because they have little interest in being subjected to the political infighting that has taken hold in many agencies.

And it all comes back to classic political correctness:

“From their point of view, they didn’t want to be surprised by finding out that we were looking at subject ‘X,’” he said. “When I pushed back and said we can’t do that, we don’t know what we’ll be publishing three years from now because we haven’t done the science yet, they’d say, ‘Well what are you hiding?’”

Last year, a team at the National Archives and Records Administration was told by senior NARA officials that it couldn’t put on a program that would have examined the historic context of immigration to the United States because it might attract “unwanted attention” to the Trump administration and put the agency’s funding in jeopardy, according to a NARA employee. “This was a year after we were able to host Black Panthers and a founder of Black Lives Matter,” the employee said. A NARA spokesperson did not comment.

Trump is anti-immigrant

The Republican party has long argued that it isn’t against immigrants just illegal immigrants. No one told President Trump (bold added):

Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a ‘‘public charge.’’ But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would widen the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used Earned Income Tax Credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other ‘‘non-cash public benefits.’’

Immigrants and their families facing a short-term crisis could potentially have to forgo help to avoid jeopardizing their US residency status. The proposal would also require more immigrants to post cash bonds if they have a higher probability of needing or accepting public benefits. The minimum bond amount would be $10,000, according to the DHS proposal, but the amount could be set higher if an applicant is deemed at greater risk of neediness.

DHS officials say the proposal is not finalized. But the overhaul is part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to curb legal immigration to the United States, and groups favoring a more restrictive approach have long insisted that immigrants are a drag on federal budgets and a siphon on American prosperity.

The March for our Lives

Hundreds of thousands of students and others marched and rallied today for sensible gun control. I went to the one in Boston, where there were at least 50 thousand:

Thousands marched in many cities around the country and the world. The estimates are as high as 800,000 in DC, 150,000 in NY, 30000 in Atlanta, 20000 in Parkland Florida, 15000 in Houston, 6000 in Kansas City, and on and on.

President Trump was, of course, not in DC but golfing. Maybe that’s because the estimated crowd size was bigger than at his inauguration.

Trump displayed his usual cowardice:

Trump, for one, was nowhere within earshot of the march and student speeches, having spent Saturday at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Scores of people had lined his motorcade’s usual path, which has been well-traveled by the president as he shuttles between his Mar-a-Lago estate and the Trump International Golf Club during weekend visits. They held signs excoriating the NRA and supporting an assault weapons ban.

But returning to Mar-a-Lago from the golf club on Saturday afternoon, Trump’s motorcade took a longer route than usual, crossing a different bridge into Palm Beach and then driving down Ocean Boulevard. There were striking views of the blue water and palatial estates, but no protesters could be spotted.

You can show your support for gun control by going to the March for Our Lives website.

Trump’s other Katrina

Not long ago, I posted about how badly things are going in Puerto Rico. It seems the Trump administration didn’t do much better in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

and in some ways, the response was worse than after Katrina:

The amount of post-Harvey government testing contrasts sharply with what happened after two other major Gulf Coast hurricanes. After Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, state regulators collected 85 sediment samples to measure the contamination; more than a dozen violations were identified and cleanups were carried out, according to a state review.

In Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters ravaged New Orleans in 2005, the EPA and Louisiana officials examined about 1,800 soil samples over 10 months, EPA records showed.

“Now the response is completely different,” said Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist formerly at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Frickel, now at Brown University, called the Harvey response “unconscionable” given Houston’s exponentially larger industrial footprint.

The state of Texas didn’t want to be trumped (sorry) by the federal government lack of action, so:

As Harvey bore down on Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration decreed that storm-related pollution would be forgiven as “acts of God.” Days later, he suspended many environmental regulations.

What, you think the state of Texas cares about its citizens?

I should get due process, no one else deserves it

Let’s look in on Philippines’ President Duterte:

The Hague-based court said last month that it was opening a preliminary inquiry into allegations that Duterte and other Philippine officials committed mass murder and crimes against humanity in the course of their crackdown on narcotics. Thousands of people have died at the hands of police officers or unknown gunmen since Duterte took office in 2016 promising to kill drug dealers and addicts.

In a written statement released Wednesday, Duterte accused the court of violating “due process and the presumption of innocence.”

Given that Duterte has repeatedly said that drug users and pushers should be killed and he would pardon any police officer that was implicated in any of the killings. He assumes they’re all guilty and so should be killed, he also has no real problem with bystanders also being killed. So it would be funny that he’s so upset that he’s being accused of a crime without due process if his drug war hasn’t killed more than 12000 people with no due process whatsoever.

Torture is back

Ok, it’s not back yet (that we know of) but one of the architects of torture under the Bush administration is now going to be in charge of the CIA:

1. Haspel ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002, where terror suspects were subjected to waterboarding. She oversaw the brutal interrogation of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, The New York Times reported. Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in a single month, as well as confinement in coffin-like boxes and other abuse. Interrogators later conceded he had given them all the information that he had.

2. Haspel also helped carry out a 2005 order that the agency destroy videos of the waterboarding.

Let’s look at the interrogation of Zubaydah (from here):

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified.

I made a list of the problems with torture here. Anyone associated with torture shouldn’t be in the US government never mind in charge of the CIA.

This is the way Trump adds jobs

President Trump is big, like most Republicans, on cutting regulations because, they say,  regulations cost jobs. The OMB, which is now run by the Trump administration, is mandated to put out a report on the costs and benefits of regulation:

OMB gathered data and analysis on “major” federal regulations (those with $100 million or more in economic impact) between 2006 and 2016, a period that includes all of Obama’s administration, stopping just short of Trump’s. The final tally, reported in 2001 dollars:

  • Aggregate benefits: $219 to $695 billion
  • Aggregate costs: $59 to $88 billion

By even the most conservative estimate, the benefits of Obama’s regulations wildly outweighed the costs.

According to OMB — and to the federal agencies upon whose data OMB mostly relied — the core of the Trumpian case against Obama regulations, arguably the organizing principle of Trump’s administration, is false.

Oops. A couple examples:

For example, new fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines had (in 2001 dollars) between $6.7 billion and $9.7 billion in benefits. But they cost industry $0.8 billion to $1.1 billion.

The MATS rule, aimed at reducing toxic emissions from power plants, had between $33 billion and $90 billion in benefits (in 2007 dollars, for some reason), but it cost industry $9.6 billion.

So the benefits easily outweigh the costs. But jobs:

The conclusion — which is in keeping with the broader literature, as I described in this post — is that there may be local and temporary employment effects from environmental regulations, either positive or negative, but at the aggregate national level, such regulations simply aren’t a significant factor in employment. Their effects are lost amid the noise of demographic shifts and macroeconomic drivers.

Oh, well that’s what the tariffs are for, to save jobs:

TTP estimates that the tariffs will, on net, cost about 146,000 jobs, two-thirds of which are production and low-skill jobs. This estimate doesn’t take into account any possible retaliation from our trading partners.

So, Trump’s moves to help the economy, cutting regulations and putting in tariffs, will have more costs than benefits and will cost the country jobs overall. That’s a win by Trump standards.

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