MA Family Institute wants discrimination back

Massachusetts added gender identity to the list of reasons people can’t be discriminated against in 2016. That’s very upsetting to some people so they’re trying to get it overturned by ballot:

A November ballot question asking voters whether to keep or repeal the state’s 2016 antidiscrimination law is expected to be the first statewide referendum on transgender rights, taking the national temperature on a fiery hot social issue.

Leading the repeal effort are conservative and religious activists and some of the same groups that tried unsuccessfully for years to prevent or stop same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Their Keep MA Safe campaign — whose website features the bathroom video — suggests that the rights afforded by the state’s antidiscrimination law are infringing upon others’ privacy and potentially endangering women and children.

“A man can enter a woman’s space at any time, without any proof of any sort of medical or psychological condition, merely based on his internal sense of self if he says he identifies as a woman,” said Beckwith, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

I have no problem with transgender people being in the same bathroom as me.  I’d be much more worried if Beckwith was in a stall next to me, he seems overly conscious of exactly who is in the bathroom with him.

The centennial of the MBTA

2018 is the hundredth year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act:

The 1918 law was enacted after several species of common birds became extinct; the Audubon Society and other organizations named 2018 the year of the bird in honor of the MBTA’s centennial.

And this is how the Trump administration celebrates it:

In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.

So an oil company can leave an oil waste pit uncovered and not be punished even if it kills thousands of birds per year. I guess this better be the year of the bird, because if the Trump administration has anything to say about it there won’t be nearly as many birds in the future.

Trump’s America

In this story by Propublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer you can see how Trump’s anti-immigration policies work. Here’s one great example:

Peralta is short and stout, with a shy, ready smile for whomever crosses his path.

That morning, it was two federal agents named Joe Vankos and Chad Noel. They were on a mission to capture a 29-year-old convicted cocaine dealer from Mexico.

Instead, they stumbled across and arrested Peralta. Though regional ICE agents had picked up bystanders in the past, they were not supposed to. But in a new era where every undocumented immigrant is a potential target, Peralta was one of the first “collaterals” to be taken into custody.  And one of the most defenseless.

It should have been immediately apparent that Peralta, who has difficulty speaking, had serious cognitive disabilities. A neuropsychologist who later examined him wrote in an assessment for the court that Peralta cannot read, write, or identify colors and that he is not competent to give informed consent “or to understand any but the simplest instructions, requests or commands.”

Yet ICE maintained in its arrest report that Peralta not only willfully engaged with Vankos but confessed his undocumented status, stated he was 46, and claimed he had a child in Florida.

Peralta, however, is childless and does not know his age, his pro bono lawyer, Craig Shagin, said. He was abandoned as a youth in rural Pennsylvania and has for decades made ends meet as an apple picker, pumpkin harvester, and construction worker in the Gettysburg area.

And the article notes:

  • Took advantage of state and local officials’ willingness to conduct their own informal immigration investigations, call ICE and detain immigrants for hours until federal agents arrived — despite the questionable legality of these practices.
  • Occasionally stepped over the legal line themselves, according to interviews, sworn affidavits, and court filings, by trespassing, conducting warrantless searches, engaging in racial profiling, fabricating evidence, and even soliciting a bribe.

I’m assuming that all those people who respond to these stories with retorts like ‘what part of illegal don’t you understand’ think these officials should all be in jail. Because otherwise they would just be Xenophobes, which is certainly not true. Right?

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.

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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