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.

Education under Trump

Democrats worried about how the new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would be with student debt given that she had invested in a company that collect defaulted loans. They were right to be worried:

The U.S. Education Department late Thursday rescinded an Obama-era rule that prohibited student loan guaranty agencies from collecting jumbo fees from defaulted borrowers who quickly resume paying.

Currently, guaranty agencies — the bodies that administer federal loans made before 2010 — aren’t allowed to collect fees from borrowers who respond within 60 days to a default notice and then enter into (and honor) a repayment agreement. Those rules were put in place in July 2015.

The Obama-era rule on collection fees was linked to a court case that started in 2013, in which a borrower sued United Student Aid Funds (USA Funds) for hitting her with a $4,500 charge from a 16% collection fee. She owed $18,000 at the time her loans went into default, but she responded to USA Funds and agreed to a repayment plans.

This isn’t the final decision (they also link to the actual letter):

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration walks back the department’s previous stance on the grounds that there should have been public input on the issue.

“The department will not require compliance with the interpretations set forth” in the previous memo “without providing prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the issues,” the letter said.

I have a feeling they’re not going to be asking for any public input in the near future. This doesn’t affect loans that have been taken out recently:

The rule only applies to debt from the Federal Family Education Loan (often called FFEL loans) Program, which was phased out during Obama’s first term. The department started lending directly to student borrowers in 2010, so the rule won’t affect anyone who’s taken out loans in the past several years.

but I have a feeling that these loans directly from the Education department aren’t going to be around for much longer.

It also appears that the President might be thinking about reopening Trump University:

Less than a month after Betsy DeVos was sworn in as its top official, the U.S. Department of Education announced Monday evening that it would delay until July 1 an effort to crack down on career training programs that load students up with unpayable debt.

The biggest winners: the more than 800 higher educational programs that claim to lead to “gainful employment” but flunked the department’s January excessive debt test—mostly for-profit art and cosmetology schools. These programs can now continue to recruit applicants (at least until July 1) without having to warn them about alumni’s oppressively high debt loads. The schools can also take this extra time to seek data showing that their graduates’ student loan bills are actually below the official “excessive debt” cutoff. That means bills must be no more than 12% of the average student’s gross earnings, as reported to the Social Security Administration, and no more than 30% of their discretionary income.

and:

As chief compliance officer for a corporate owner of for-profit colleges, Robert S. Eitel spent the past 18 months as a top lawyer for a company facing multiple government investigations, including one that ended with a settlement of more than $30 million over deceptive student lending.

Today, Mr. Eitel — on an unpaid leave of absence — is working as a special assistant to the new secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, whose department is setting out to roll back regulations governing the for-profit college sector.

It appears that the only thing the Trump administration wants to teach you is: if you’re not rich we’re going to screw you.

Crime in New York City

The crime rate in New York City is lower than it’s been in generations:

New York City finished 2016 tied for its second lowest number of homicides in the modern era of record keeping, driving the city’s rate for each 100,000 residents to the lowest level among major U.S. cities except San Diego.

NYPD figures show 335 killings last year, down from 352 in 2015. The fewest killings were in 2014, with 333; 2013 also recorded 335 homicides. The 2016 number is preliminary and might be adjusted upward if certain cases are reclassified as homicides.

Total shootings, defined as discharge of a gun in which someone is injured, totaled 998, down from more than 1,100 in the prior year.

Since hitting a record high of 2,245 homicides in 1989, New York City killings have declined markedly and are comparable to what the city experienced in the 1960s, when record keeping differed from the CompStat method initiated in 1994 by then-commissioner William Bratton.

And it could be even lower if other states had stronger gun laws:

A gun-trafficking ring in Virginia brought more than 200 legally purchased guns up the I-95 corridor to New York, where they unwittingly sold them to an undercover detective, according to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday.

The indictment of 627 counts charged 24 people, some of whom have violent criminal records and ties to the Bloods street gang, with conspiracy and illegal weapons sale and possession. In all, the authorities recovered 217 guns, including 41 assault weapons like AK-47s, AR-15s and a Thompson submachine gun.

In a phone call in September, Antwan Walker, of Highland Springs, Va., said it was to buy guns in Virginia.

“There is no limits to how many guns I can go buy from the store, you know what I mean?” he said.

But we have to allow such people to buy an almost unlimited number of guns because FREEDOM.

Here’s the Trump/Republican agenda

Today we get an idea of what Trump and Republicans want to do:

The revised order is narrower and specifies that a 90-day ban on people from the six countries does not apply to those who already have valid visas or people with U.S. green cards.

According to the fact sheet, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a country-by-country review of the information the six targeted nations provide to the U.S. for visa and immigration decisions. Those countries will then have 50 days to comply with U.S. government requests to update or improve that information.

Additionally, Trump’s order suspends the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

This will probably cut the number of visitors to the US, cut the number of students who want to go to college in the US, and cut the number of people who want to work in the US. This will cost millions of jobs and redirect some of the best and brightest to Europe and Canada.

House Republicans on Monday released their long-awaited plan for unraveling former President Barack Obama’s health care law, a package that would scale back the government’s role in health care and likely leave more Americans uninsured.

House committees planned to begin voting on the 123-page legislation Wednesday, launching what could be the year’s defining battle in Congress.

GOP success is by no means a slam dunk. In perhaps their riskiest political gamble, the plan is expected to cover fewer than the 20 million people insured under Obama’s overhaul, including many residents of states carried by President Donald Trump in November’s election.

The proposal would continue the expansion of Medicaid to additional low-earning Americans until 2020. After that, states adding Medicaid recipients would no longer receive the additional federal funds Obama’s law has provided.

More significantly, Republicans would overhaul the federal-state Medicaid program, changing its open-ended federal financing to a limit based on enrollment and costs in each state.

The changes also might crash the individual market to make it impossible for tens of millions of Americans to get health insurance. That would be a plus for Republicans.

However, it was the next phrase Carson uttered that landed him in hot water.

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less,” Carson said. “But they too had a dream that one day, their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters. . . might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land. And do you know of all the nations in the world, this one, the United States of America, is the only one big enough and great enough to allow all those people to realize their dream.”

Ok, that seems a little unfair. Well:

The original nine plaintiffs claim that detainees are forced to work without pay and that those who refuse to do so are threatened with solitary confinement.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims, six detainees are selected at random every day and forced to clean the facility’s housing units. The lawsuit claims the practice violates the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits modern-day slavery.

‘‘Forced labor is a particular violation of the statute that we’ve alleged,’’ Free said. ‘‘Whether you’re calling it forced labor or slavery, the practical reality for the plaintiffs is much the same. You’re being compelled to work against your will under the threat of force or use of force.’’

This has been going on for a while so it’s not just the new administration, except that President Obama tried to cut back on private prisons for this type of reason and the Trump administration wants to expand them:

Notably, the stocks of the two biggest private prison operators, Geo Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America), have surged since Trump’s election. The companies donated a total of $500,000 to Trump’s inaugural festivities, USA Today reported.

Since Trump took office, his administration has reversed the Obama administration’s policy to end the country’s reliance on private prisons.

And if a little slavery slips in, well all for the better. Just ask Ben Carson–immigration and slavery are basically the same thing.

Who needs clean water?

Via here we get to see the priorities of the Trump administration:

The proposal would virtually eliminate annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, slashing it from $300 million to $10 million among other cuts that would altogether reduce the EPA’s total budget by a quarter.

The Great Lakes funding cut is the largest total dollar reduction on a list that includes major cuts to climate change programs, restoration funding for Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay, research into chemicals that disrupt human reproductive and developmental systems, enforcement of pollution laws and funding for Brownfield cleanups.

The plan also includes a $13 million cut in compliance monitoring, which the EPA uses to ensure the safety of drinking water systems. State grants for beach water quality testing would also be eliminated.

Other EPA cuts in the plan include a 30 percent reduction in state and local air grants from 2017 levels, a 24 percent cut to the overall budget, decrease of staffing by 19 percent, elimination of the Indoor Air Radon Program and state indoor radon grants, elimination of the Environmental Justice office and a reduction of environmental justice funds by more than 77 percent from 2017 levels, according to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

Hey, remember when water pollution was so bad that rivers caught fire?

Jeff Sessions shows his critics were right

Jeff Sessions isn’t a racist it’s just that his policies seem to be … or something. Let’s see what Jeff did the last two days of Black History Month:

  • He dropped an objection to a voter ID law in Texas:

The Republican-led Texas Legislature passed one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country in 2011, requiring voters to show a driver’s license, passport or other government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot.

The Obama administration’s Justice Department sued Texas to block the law in 2013 and scored a major victory last year after a federal appeals court ruled that the law needed to be softened because it discriminated against minority voters who lacked the required IDs.

Opponents of the law said Republican lawmakers selected IDs that were most advantageous for Republican-leaning white voters and discarded IDs that were beneficial to Democratic-leaning minority voters. For example, legislators included licenses to carry concealed handguns, which are predominantly carried by whites, and excluded government employee IDs and public university IDs, which are more likely to be used by blacks, Hispanics and Democratic-leaning younger voters.

But the Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a judge on Monday that it was withdrawing its claim that Texas enacted the law with a discriminatory intent.

Trump costing us jobs

It seems that if you restrict travel to the US, you reduce the number of travelers to the US (via here):

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.
A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.
According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.
Good job Donald. Next he’ll get us into a trade war with Mexico and China, which is sure to hurt the economy even more.

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