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Topics - yossarian22c

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1
General Comments / CPAC in Hungary
« on: May 19, 2022, 02:40:33 PM »
https://www.npr.org/2022/05/18/1099680587/a-prominent-conference-of-american-conservatives-is-taking-place-in-hungary

Quote
Princeton sociologist Kim Scheppele, an expert on Hungarian politics, says Trump's relationship with Orban is different than the typical good relations an American president might have with a foreign leader.

"All of the international democracy rating agencies agree that Hungary is no longer a democracy. And the U.S. hasn't had a president be best buddies with a dictator before," Scheppele says.
...
"All the culture war campaigns have been used to disguise the fact that, by law, Orban has been limiting the democratic space. And he's done that particularly by rigging the election laws and then capturing all of the independent agencies that could tell him no," she said.
...
"What Orban has really perfected is how to keep reelecting leaders whose aspirations are absolutely not to maintain a democracy, but rather the opposite: to lock in power forever to a small group of people. When you raise that question now in the United States, people don't automatically say that's a bad idea."

What Orban is doing is not only not a bad idea to conservative thought leaders like Dreher, it's an existential necessity.

I guess the CPAC Republicans are being very open about their disdain for democracy, free press, and human rights. They'll yell freedom, gays, Mexican invasion, CRT, or anything that isn't their increasingly open goal of "we are intent on deconstructing democracy in America as long as we're the ones in charge when democracy dies."


2
General Comments / Campaign Finance
« on: May 17, 2022, 01:00:56 PM »
https://www.npr.org/2022/05/16/1099256713/supreme-court-sides-with-sen-ted-cruz-in-campaign-finance-case

Quote
The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority sided with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday, ruling that a federal ban on outsiders repaying a candidate's campaign loan to himself after an election violates the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

The vote was 6-to-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion.

Cruz challenged a federal law that has been on the books for 20 years. It bars federal candidates from raising more than $250,000 after an election to repay loans that the candidate made to his own campaign.

Since the loan is from the candidate personally. This allows the candidate to directly solicit money from lobbyists and others that benefit themselves personally. Oh, complete coincidence that a lobbyist repaying a million dollar personal loan has a bill I also support.

3
General Comments / Debt Ceiling Filibuster
« on: September 29, 2021, 08:04:45 AM »
Republicans didn't give a crap about raising the deficit and debt under Trump. But the moment Democrats get power again we get these stand offs that could significantly harm the economy and the country. Hostage taking is the Republican negotiating tactic. Remember that when they are wrapping themselves in the flag its just a human shield.

4
General Comments / Afghanistan
« on: August 13, 2021, 10:12:30 AM »
Afghanistan is quickly falling back to the Taliban. 20 years of fighting seems wasted at this point. Instead of a national military maybe we should have been training and arming village and city level militias. Give people the tools to defend their own homes. Seems like they don't have enough national unity for the people in the military to think its worth putting up a fight in whatever town/city they are assigned to. Maybe we should have been training and arming the women that will be locked in their homes when the Taliban returns to power. Whatever we did hasn't seemed to have worked. Maybe the Taliban is over extending and the Afghan government forces will be able to mount a counter strike but the early signs don't look promising.

Overall this looks bad. The country is falling so much faster than anyone expected. Biden is sending troops back in to help evacuate the embassy. Its Vietnam all over again.

5
General Comments / Trans Bills
« on: April 02, 2021, 09:47:36 AM »
Why are the two highest priorities on the Republican agenda in states restricting voting and laws targeting trans youth?

The sports bills are a law in search of a problem. High school sports just aren't high enough stakes for anyone to be pretend to be trans in order to participate. When there is some form of compensation for participating then you need to start having some restrictions but each sport should be able to police their own rules without the state passing heavy handed laws about youth sports.

The bill in Alabama that would ban medical treatment for trans kids recommended by their doctor, approved by their parents is just horrendous.

6
General Comments / Guns
« on: March 23, 2021, 05:19:38 PM »
I've said before and I'll say again. Banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines will not stop mass shootings but they would lower the body count. Assault rifles and high capacity magazines serve no purpose for self defense or hunting.

Is the counter argument the second amendment is absolute and we should quit regulating 50 caliber machine guns? Is it I like my gun and I don't care how many people get killed by AR-15's with high capacity magazines I want to keep mine. I don't understand people supporting the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

I know this only addresses a very small subset of gun violence, but it seems to be the lowest hanging fruit. The bigger step would be to find a way to track guns to find out how gangs and criminals are being armed. Shut down the bad gun dealers and straw purchases and get guns out of the hands of criminals.

7
General Comments / Election Law
« on: February 07, 2021, 12:57:19 PM »
Quote
If someone moves to Georgia or moves within the state, the person would have to remember to opt in to having the Department of Driver Services update their voter registration. If they relocate to Georgia after a November general election, they wouldn't be able to participate in a runoff.

The state is addressing election security by stopping their DMV from automatically updating the voter roles???

In Arizona its even crazier.

Quote
Those include direct attacks on Arizona's ballot-by-mail system. Most Arizonans opt to receive an early ballot in the mail and then have the option to mail it back or hand-deliver it to collection sites, county election headquarters or polling places. One bill would abolish the state's permanent early-voting list, though the sponsor walked it back within hours. He is still pushing legislation that would require early-ballot envelopes to be notarized.

Another bill would allow voters to receive ballots by mail but would bar them from mailing the ballot back, and any ballots returned by mail would no longer be counted.
...
One bill pushed by a GOP lawmaker would divide up electors by the state's nine congressional districts, similar to how electors are awarded in Maine and Nebraska. But instead of awarding two at-large electors to the winner of the popular vote, the Republican-controlled legislature would assign those electors to its preferred candidate.

Another separate proposal by GOP Rep. Shawnna Bolick would allow the legislature to simply override the will of the voters by allowing legislators to overturn the certification of presidential electors by a simple majority vote at any time before the inauguration.

Its scary when one side of the political divide quits believing in democracy.

https://www.npr.org/2021/02/07/964598941/after-record-2020-turnout-state-republicans-weigh-making-it-harder-to-vote

8
General Comments / Extreme Protesters
« on: December 07, 2020, 02:19:10 PM »
https://www.npr.org/sections/biden-transition-updates/2020/12/07/943820889/michigan-secretary-of-state-says-armed-protesters-descended-on-her-home-saturday

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Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says "dozens" of armed protesters descended on her home Saturday night ...
As my four-year-old son and I were finishing up decorating the house for Christmas on Saturday night, and he was about to sit down to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, dozens of armed individuals stood outside my home shouting obscenities and chanting into bullhorns in the dark of night
From the protesters:
Quote
Late in the video, Peters seemed to promise more protests.

"We will not stand down, we will not stop, we will continue to rise up, we will continue to take this election back for the president that actually won it by a landslide," she said. "This is not over. It is far from over – in fact, it's just beginning."

I find this type of protesting abhorrent. It was also likewise bad judgement for Maxine Waters to encourage people to confront people in the Trump cabinet in public as a protest method.

This is on top of many of the protests around the election counting facilities that required police to escort workers to their cars for safety. Along with the two men arrested in Philly on gun charges outside the vote counting facility. The right is becoming more aggressive and their history of protesting while heavily armed makes all of these situations fraught with danger.

9
General Comments / Lame Duck Actions
« on: November 17, 2020, 10:13:59 AM »
The two actions I've seen are the senate racing to put a political nut on the federal reserve and drilling in ANWR.

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/16/934553035/controversial-fed-nominee-set-to-prevail-in-senate-confirmation-vote-this-week
Quote
Opponents questioned her views on monetary policy — which seem to shift depending on which party controls the White House — as well as her unorthodox support for the gold standard, a theory long discarded by mainstream economists.

In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, Shelton criticized the Fed for keeping interest rates low. But she changed course abruptly once Trump was in office, backing his call for even lower interest rates.

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/16/935527352/trump-administration-rushes-to-sell-oil-rights-in-arctic-national-wildlife-refug
Quote
Starting Tuesday, oil and gas companies can pick which parts of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge they're interested in drilling. It's the latest push by the Trump administration to auction off development rights in the pristine landscape before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

10
General Comments / Polling Analysis
« on: November 05, 2020, 02:47:37 PM »
Final results aren't in yet but wanted to take a look at the final 538 predictions vs outcomes. Trump outperformed the polls in many places but in others they were relatively accurate. Some of the vote totals may shift a little more towards Biden as mail in votes are counted but just doing a quick check on where polls were okay and where they missed.

I'll look through the swing states and compare the vote so far to the final 538 average of polls. I'll give the Trump share of the poll and error.

State:    Poll           Vote         Poll Error
Texas    50.3%      52.2%         1.9%
Ohio     49.8%       53.4%         3.6%
Iowa     50.0%       53.2%        3.2%
Georgia 49.2%      49.6%         0.4%
NC        48.8%      50.1%         1.3%
Florida   48.5%      51.2%         2.7%
Arizona  48.1%      48.1%         0%   *Significant outstanding vote
Penn      47.3%      50.3%        3%    *Significant outstanding vote
Nevada  46.2%      48.5%        2.3% *Significant outstanding vote
Michigan 45.5%     47.9%        2.4%
Wisconsin 45.4%    48.8%       3.4%
Minn      44.6%      45.4%       1.2%


3-4 Percent would be an average margin of error for an individual poll. The big issue is that Trump outperformed the polls across the board. The upper midwest seems to have the worst errors. Everywhere else except Florida seemed to measure Trump support within about 2%. 2% is a big deal when it changes who the winner is, but in terms of statistics an error under 2% is reasonable. Taken as a collective consistently missing in one direction by about 2% is more problematic. Also since 538 is doing a meta analysis on multiple polls we should consistently see errors of less than 2% and some in favor of either candidate if there isn't any type of sampling bias. Maybe it really is people in the upper midwest support Trump but lie to pollsters about it. Hard to say, years without Trump on the ballot the 538 polling averages have been nearly perfect. Years with him on the ballot we've seen the consistent error away from Trump.

My quick analysis is there is something going a little wrong with polls in the upper midwest and Florida. The rest of the sun belt looks to have been predicted about as accurate as you can expect. Even if ideally you would have overestimated Trump's support somewhere as well. But IMO measuring a population statistic within 2% is "passing."

Also as a note we sometimes think the polls are worse than they were when we measure the gap between the candidates because it doubles the error. So a poll that had Biden 50% Trump 48% (B+2) and the actual result is Biden (48%) Trump (50%) (B-2) is really measuring the values to within 2% but the difference between the margins (+2 to -2) is 4%.

11
General Comments / Voice of America
« on: October 27, 2020, 10:33:59 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2020/10/27/928118147/u-s-agency-targets-its-own-journalists-independence

In the Trump tradition of destroying government institutions it seems like there is long term damage being done to VOA.

Quote
A regulatory "firewall" intended to protect Voice of America and its affiliated newsrooms from political interference in their journalism was swept aside late Monday night by the chief executive of the federal agency which oversees the government's international broadcasters.

Michael Pack, a Trump appointee who assumed leadership of the U.S. Agency for Global Media in June, wrote that he acted to eliminate policies that were "harmful to the agency and the U.S. national interest." And Pack argued they had interfered with his mandate "to support the foreign policy of the United States."

Pack has already come under fire for revelations that his senior aides investigated the agency's journalists for bias against President Trump and pushed for their dismissals and reassignments, in seeming violation of the rules he has now rescinded, effective immediately.

The move set off a firestorm.

"I am stunned," former Voice of America director Amanda Bennett told NPR early Tuesday morning. "It removes the one thing that makes Voice of America distinct from broadcasters of repressive regimes."

12
General Comments / Election Results
« on: October 23, 2020, 12:32:49 PM »
A few key states (Penn, and Wisconsin) don't allow for any pre counting and very little pre processing of mail in ballots. Trump almost certainty can't win without those states. The key states we're likely to have good information on election night are Florida and NC. They allow for both pre-processing and pre-counting ballots. If Biden wins both the election is over. If Biden wins 1 of the 2 he almost certainly wins. If Trump carries both then we're likely in for a wait of a couple days until the other swing states can put out some hard numbers.

If Biden outperforms in a couple other swing states that he is within margin of error in the polls, Ohio, Texas, Iowa, and Georgia then its a massive landslide win for Biden. But with the exception of Iowa I don't have much expectation of Biden winning in any of those states.

NC, Florida, and Texas have probably already seen about 1/2 their total number of ballots cast.

13
General Comments / Belarus
« on: August 17, 2020, 10:57:33 AM »
Quote
There was no official count of the crowd size, though the sweeping demonstration appears to be the largest in the country's history. The Associated Press reported that as many as 200,000 people turned out in Minsk.
...
Speaking to his followers, Lukashenko likened his opponents to rats, said it was not his fault he needed to call on supporters for their help and warned that Belarus would perish "as a state" if it held new elections, contending the results could not have been falsified.

"They say elections results were forged. But how can 80% be forged? They want us to hold new elections. But how will we work in the fields if we must have new elections?" Lukashenko said.

I guess everyone who voted against him turned out to protest the election results.

What a mess. For the past decade and accelerating recently we are seeing the world move further from open societies and representative governments. 1990-2012ish I felt we were largely moving the other direction. Turkey, Poland, Belarus, Hong Kong, and others are all getting worse; along with countries that were never that open or representative to begin with (China and Russia). The US response is crippled by Trump's ineptness, combined with limited good options in most cases. The powers of the surveillance state in the technological age are vast and powerful.

We're at an important time in world history. I can see a real chance of real decline in free societies and/or even open war between major powers within the next 10 years. I don't see these things as inevitable but I feel the chances are much greater than at any point in my life post the fall of the Berlin Wall.

14
General Comments / Census Shenanigans
« on: July 24, 2020, 01:13:32 PM »
https://www.npr.org/2020/07/21/892340508/with-no-final-say-trump-wants-to-change-who-counts-for-dividing-up-congress-seat
https://www.npr.org/2020/07/21/892340508/with-no-final-say-trump-wants-to-change-who-counts-for-dividing-up-congress-seat

Quote
The memo instructs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Commerce Department, to include in the legally required report of census results to the president "information permitting the President, to the extent practicable" to leave out the number of immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization from the apportionment count.


Constitution says:

Quote
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State...

I'm interested in seeing how the conservatives who don't adhere to the living document theory defend this policy by somehow arguing undocumented immigrants are "non-persons."

15
General Comments / Bolton
« on: June 17, 2020, 09:13:53 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2020/06/16/878992185/justice-department-seeks-to-block-publication-of-john-boltons-white-house-memoir

Quote
A 27-page civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against Bolton with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleges that publication of his 592-page book, The Room Where It Happened, would be a violation of nondisclosure agreements he signed and compromise national security.

I'm pretty sure Bolton knows the process for keeping out classified information or at least having it reviewed at the appropriate time (not a week before it hits shelves). I wonder if Trump is trying to classify some of his conversations with Bolton.

But maybe its related to stuff like this:
Quote
"In fact," Simon & Schuster says of Bolton, "he argues that the House committed impeachment malpractice by keeping their prosecution focused narrowly on Ukraine when Trump's Ukraine-like transgressions existed across the full range of his foreign policy — and Bolton documents exactly what those were, and attempts by him and others in the Administration to raise alarms about them."


16
General Comments / George Floyd
« on: May 29, 2020, 02:50:44 PM »
I typically find myself somewhat sympathetic to the cops in a lot of the killings that garner national attention. This case is by far and away the most egregious I've seen. What the hell was that cop thinking?

I'm glad all the officers present were fired immediately and I don't know how it took this many days to arrest the cop who kneeled on a handcuffed man's neck for several minutes while he slowly suffocated.

When I first heard the story I though potentially he had kneeled on his back while handcuffing him and it was a struggle to get the cuffs set leading to an injury that later caused his death. But there is video showing George being fairly cooperative while being handcuffed then the video showing him on the sidewalk with the cop's knee on the back of his neck while he was basically begging for him to get up. This is far and away the most open and shut murder case I've ever seen, second degree murder seems almost trivial to prove at this point. Its really hard for me to even think of any reasons, other information we don't yet have that would significantly change my opinion of the charge.

17
General Comments / Voting During a Pandemic
« on: May 28, 2020, 10:42:27 AM »
Two issues here.

1) The 2020 election. Mail in could be used in larger numbers than ever before in most states. While I support this for use during a pandemic I do have concerns about election fraud with mail in. However the concerns I have about mail in are smaller than the concerns I have about any touch screen or purely electronic voting system. The virus is likely going to still be an issue in November. Significant planning needs to be going on to ramp up mail in voting, maybe allowing early voting for an extended period of time at more places to keep crowds down, and other plans to keep polling places safe.

2) Proxy voting on the house floor. I understand the desire by the dems to do this but I would have preferred they have used some type of technology to vote remotely. Electronically "present" seems more in line with the constitution than voting by proxy. I nominally support the republicans objection to this method. In the long run remote working and voting for congress could lead to some interesting new dynamics of power. I imagine with as many down as upsides but it could shake some things up if members stayed home more and were flying around the country less.

18
General Comments / The IG files
« on: May 18, 2020, 12:56:40 PM »
https://www.npr.org/2020/05/17/857589529/democrats-launch-probe-of-trumps-firing-of-state-department-inspector-general

Quote
Congressional Democrats announced Saturday they're requesting all records and documents regarding President Trump's decision to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, the fourth government watchdog Trump has fired or sought to remove in the last six weeks.
...
A White House official told NPR on background Saturday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommended the move, "and President Trump agreed."

Engel said he'd learned that Linick had opened an investigation into Pompeo.
...
In early April, Trump fired the intelligence community's inspector general. He then removed the head of the group charged with overseeing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And early this month, he moved to replace a watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services who reported on hospital shortages of medical supplies.

IGs are responsible for holding government agencies accountable. Firing 4 in 6 weeks is unprecedented. Particularly firing them right after reports come out that have damaging information for the Trump admin or are opening investigations into senior administration officials is a horrible precedent. 

Is this something our resident Trump defenders support?

19
General Comments / Economics and Covid-19
« on: March 10, 2020, 12:26:09 PM »
As people ramp down consumption, travel, and potentially work as a result of the virus. It looks highly likely that at least some countries if not the world will enter a recession.

Trump is proposing stimulus (tax cuts, money for missed paychecks, small business loans) to help offset the impacts. Here's the problem, the deficit before any slow down happened was projected to be in the 1 trillion dollar range. Trump's previous tax cuts "that were going to pay for themselves" have ballooned the deficit during a good economic time, now the deficit will increase on its own if the economy slows and even more if additional stimulus is piled on top. So honestly we could be looking at a 1.5 trillion dollar deficit this year by the time things are done.

That being said, recessions aren't the time to worry about deficits. But I wish we had more room to work with if something goes wrong. Economists and many people here said as much for Trump's first tax cuts. Now we're sitting on the edge of economic uncertainty and increasing deficit spending is a lot harder than it should be.

20
General Comments / CFPB and the Supreme Court
« on: March 03, 2020, 11:20:04 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2020/03/03/810322976/supreme-court-eyes-the-presidents-power-to-say-you-re-fired

I'm generally okay with "independent" agencies (appointed by the president and senate confirmed). Seems like a power congress should have in setting up agencies to work the way they want. The Trump admin is siding with the plaintiffs in saying this type of agency is unconstitutional.

Judicial president dating back to FDR says this is legal (at least for committees). I'm curious as to what the "conservative" judicial philosophy is on this. Is it to overrule case law dating back 80+ years? I don't think there is anything in the constitution forbidding congress from setting up agencies this way. Or will the "conservative" court find some new powers in the constitution for the executive branch?

21
General Comments / Democratic Primary
« on: November 12, 2019, 11:24:21 AM »
https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/iowa/

Buttigieg is polling 2nd in Iowa. I find this surprising, he had much lower name recognition and less of a national profile entering the election. He's more moderate than Warren or Sanders and doesn't have the baggage of a Biden. If Biden tanks in Iowa and Buttigieg can make a run in New Hampshire too there is a real path forward for him particularly if Warren and Sanders both stay in the race splitting the vote of the farther left. Buttigieg at 37 would be quite a contrast to the elderly Trump. South Bend mayor to President is a really big jump though. But I guess he still has more government experience than Trump.

22
General Comments / NIMBY
« on: March 26, 2019, 09:55:11 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2019/03/25/706546214/a-battle-is-raging-over-the-largest-solar-farm-east-of-the-rockies

Quote
"I mean we live at a resort, essentially," says Dave Walsh, one of the many Fawn Lake residents organizing against the planned solar farm. One corner of the massive project would butt up against the back of the gated community. Walsh says he supports solar, in theory, but not here.

"It's not in keeping with the type of setting that people bought houses here [for] — they wanted to be out in the woods, essentially," Walsh says.

You would think with the resistance that they are trying to build a hog farm or coal plant on the land. Oh and when the project is done and trees are replanted along the boundary none of the gated community folks are likely to be able to see, hear, or smell the solar panels.

Quote
Supervisor Greg Benton, who represents Fawn Lake on the board, says the fierce opposition took him by surprise — initially, he thought it would be the easiest decision he would ever make: The project would use almost no county services, while generating millions in revenue.

Millions in revenue for the county without a high increase in demand for services is a pretty big deal for a rural county. Too bad all the rich folks who send their kids to private schools are opposed. :(



23
General Comments / Trump, Saudi's and Nuclear Technology
« on: February 20, 2019, 09:22:23 AM »
Quote
The Trump administration sought to rush the transfer of American nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the law, a new report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee alleges.

https://www.npr.org/2019/02/19/695954246/trump-officials-tried-to-rush-nuclear-technology-to-saudis-house-panel-finds

This is why Trump (and his officials) should be fully divested from businesses interests. Are they trying to bend the rules to support an ally or ingratiate themselves with business partners?

But seriously we should quit selling weapons and giving technology to the Saudi's, one day its going to be used against us.

24
General Comments / Election Security
« on: December 27, 2018, 11:33:29 AM »
Based on our current media and political climate candidates are encouraged/forced to accept the results elections for the smooth transition of power. Gore challenged in Florida but stopped short of demanding a full recount, since then the most litigated was Franken's narrow election in Wisconsin. We have only seen true litigation in these extremely close races with the narrowest of margins. But what about when a race is decided by 100,000 votes but there is clear evidence that at least some of the electronic machines were manipulated? The margin on its face doesn't justify a lot of litigation and the people who won the election would be in charge of any government investigation. It seems like something that could get buried pretty easily.

There is a lawsuit (not public yet, so we'll deal with this in mostly hypotheticals and generalities for now) in a particular state that I believe has a high probability of showing that certain voting machines were tampered with. Having looked at some of the data I'm 99+% confident that actual votes were tampered with.

If it can be shown the electronic voting machine was tampered with it casts doubt on the democratic outcome of an election which causes all kinds potentially very negative consequences. On the other hand if we allow widespread electronic voting fraud then we are subverting democracy.

Either way I feel like we lose as a society. I really wish there was a strong center that supported true election security (voter ID is a sham and mail-in is rife for abuse). But I largely see both sides either largely ignoring the issue or supporting only the voting measures that help them politically. I hope we can get this fixed before we have the courts either overturning the results of an election or ordering new elections, I really fear what the extremes on either side would do should they end up on the losing side of one of those decisions.

25
General Comments / What Real Voter Fraud Looks Like
« on: December 05, 2018, 09:34:02 AM »
https://www.npr.org/2018/12/04/673311746/democrats-weigh-options-in-potentially-tainted-n-c-congressional-race

Quote
Joe Bruno, a local TV reporter, spoke with a woman who said she was paid "$75 to $100 a week" to pick up ballots. After picking up the ballots, she said she didn't mail them — instead, she gave them to Dowless.

26
General Comments / Trump Scandals
« on: May 24, 2018, 10:15:45 PM »
Basically I'm starting this as a thread to dump the generic run of the mill Trump scandal stories in. Most of these would have dominated headlines and discussion for weeks or months in other administrations.

Leaking of confidential sources names.
https://www.npr.org/2018/05/24/614200958/top-house-democrat-requests-probe-into-how-fbi-sources-name-was-leaked

Cabinet Ethics
https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/16/611608780/epas-scott-pruitt-subject-of-many-ethics-probes-plays-defense-before-senate
http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/transportation-secretary-elaine-chao-gets-an-ethics-scandal.html
https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/27/politics/trump-administration-scandals-and-embarrassments/index.html

The rate of judicial appointments. (Lack of vetting and breaking of norms that allow Senator's to have a veto on judges in their state.)
https://www.npr.org/2018/05/20/612554090/the-war-over-confirming-federal-judges-is-heating-up-again

Anything Nunes has done regarding the Russia/Muller investigation.

27
General Comments / EPA New Science Rule
« on: April 26, 2018, 09:57:33 PM »
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/04/new-rule-could-force-epa-ignore-major-human-health-studies

This seems like a blatant attempt to force the EPA to ignore all epidemiological studies to the benefit of people making stuff that harms our health.

I think this rule would also allow them to ignore some climate models because some of the data provided to the climate researches was done so by governments who did not want all of the data published.

I guess that is a win?-win? for conservatives?

This seems like a policy that was arrived at through outcomes based rule making. I imagine the true reasoning went something like this

Pruitt: "How could we ignore all these health impact studies and make it sound like a reasonable policy?"
lobbyist: "I know these studies can't publish their data so lets make that a requirement for using the results."

28
General Comments / The science of gerrymandering
« on: February 04, 2018, 01:02:05 PM »
I know on another thread we have been discussing the possibility that the republicans hold the house but loose the house popular vote by 4-6 points (IMO the most likely outcome of the 2018 election, I think they will keep the Senate as well).

This is a story about the information used to declare NC's legislative map unconstitutional via partisan gerrymandering.
http://wunc.org/post/non-partisan-redistricting-possible-former-judge-and-mathematician-think-so

And if you are interested the link to the Duke math department's blog about this.
https://sites.duke.edu/quantifyinggerrymandering/

Basically a professor in the Duke math department came up with a way to analyze voting maps that shows that the map drawn by the NC legislature was an outlier that showed gerrymandering. The same type of analysis shows Maryland was gerrymandered for the dems as well.

If the supreme court allows this type of mathematical analysis to declare when a map is unfair, it probably won't come soon enough to change 2018 but 2020 could see a big shift.

29
General Comments / Trump and Ethics
« on: January 16, 2018, 07:06:58 AM »
https://www.citizensforethics.org/yearone/

Quote
This report lays out all of these violations of law, ethics rules, and norms and many more, setting out an issue-by-issue accounting of a year characterized by contempt for ethical and legal obligations. Still, it only provides an overview of the administration’s ethics problems – so much is still unknown that we are only beginning to understand the scope of the problem. Nonetheless, looking back on the first year of the Trump administration, it is now clear that the president has operated with a clear disregard for ethics and the rule of law, and this attitude has infected his administration. From the smallest incidents of using official positions to promote hats or clothing to the most damning examples of business conflicts that could influence American foreign policy and systematic obstruction of justice, President Trump and his administration are sending a signal that they view the government as working for them, rather than for the American people. If we want government of the people, by the people, and for the people to continue, it is time for Congress, enforcement agencies, and most importantly the American people to demand an end to the violations and a return to an ethical and lawful government.

I haven't had the time to read the whole thing yet but it seems to be a substantive detailing of Trump's conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clause during his first year in office.

30
General Comments / Net Neutrality 2.0
« on: December 14, 2017, 08:27:22 AM »
Is anyone here actually in favor of ISP's being allowed to throttle and/or pick and choose what content you get to see? This seems especially troublesome with the increasing overlap between ISPs and content producers (Comcast and NBC).

31
General Comments / Iran deal
« on: October 13, 2017, 11:17:15 PM »
So Trump sent the Iran deal to Congress because Iran was violating the “spirit” of the deal. Trump has again isolated the US on the world stage. Is there any justification for abrogating our international agreements?

32
General Comments / Republican Tax Plan
« on: October 10, 2017, 10:23:43 PM »
So analysis of the initial framework shows huge tax cuts for the wealthy, likely slightly higher tax bills for the upper middle class, and pretty much no change for the middle class. Yet Trump claims "I won't benefit". Anyone buying this sack of trickle down BS being good for the middle class?

http://www.npr.org/2017/10/04/555433641/who-will-benefit-most-from-gop-tax-plan-early-report-suggests-the-wealthy

33
General Comments / Equifax
« on: September 14, 2017, 07:18:15 PM »
The company's entire business is to collect financial information and provide analysis to banks about the risk of lending you money. By leaking all of everyone's personal data they have basically made issuing credit to anyone not in person extremely risky.

Is there any reason their corporate charter shouldn't be revoked?

Also I sure hope the FCC is investigating those executives who sold millions in stock 2 days after the breach was discovered but months before they made it public. Sure looks like insider trading.

34
General Comments / Russian interference
« on: August 10, 2017, 10:49:36 PM »
There are two stories that I read recently that I think are reasonably informative to the Russia story line.

The first is an interview with the former CIA Moscow station chief.

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/08/542106975/cover-lifted-a-cia-spy-offers-his-take-on-trump-and-russia

Here is one highlight but the whole thing is worth a read and/or listen.
Quote
Hoffman's long experience observing Russian spies at work leads to a surprising conclusion about one of the most sensational revelations from last year's election: that Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. The one attended by Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort — and Kremlin-connected Russians.

"To me," Hoffman says, "it pointed to a discoverable influence operation rather than some effort to establish a clandestine channel for collusion."

Both in NPR's interview and in an op-ed for The New York Times, Hoffman argues the meeting was meant to be discovered, that Putin deliberately left a trail of breadcrumbs from Trump Tower to the Kremlin.

And that the objective was simple: to soil the U.S. political process and undermine the credibility of the 2016 election.

Here is the second which shows some evidence of potential Russian hacking.
http://www.npr.org/2017/08/10/542634370/russian-cyberattack-targeted-elections-vendor-tied-to-voting-day-disruptions

There is no smoking gun here but some good circumstantial evidence. A vendor that had been targeted for hacking by Russia had their software malfunction in the most heavily Democratic county in the state of North Carolina. This was the voter role software, not the vote counting software but it did lead to some long delays for voting.


My personal opinion is that Trump didn't actively collude with the Russians during the campaign. However I do feel that he was their preferred candidate because of one or more of the following reasons. I'll give the reason and the likelihood I think it actually is real.
  • They felt he would be easy to manipulate on the world stage. (>90% confidence)
  • They felt he would alienate our allies in Europe, splitting the western alliance and making the former soviet satellites more susceptible to Russian influence. (>90% confidence)
  • They felt he may lift certain Russian sanctions (Magnitsky act). (~40% confidence)
  • They have knowledge of financial dealings by Trump or his family that may be embarrassing or potential illegal that they may be able to use to influence Trump. (<25% confidence)*
  • They have compromising photos of him with women other than his wife. (<5% confidence)

*http://www.npr.org/2017/07/28/539802914/businessman-paints-a-terrifying-and-complex-picture-of-putins-russia

35
General Comments / Disappointment with politicians on "your side"
« on: June 10, 2017, 11:28:46 PM »
Thought I where we could post about stuff that disappoints us about politicians we typically agree with.

I'll start:

Bernie Sanders making a big deal out of Russell Vought's belief that non-Christians were destined for hell.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/09/532116365/is-it-hateful-to-believe-in-hell-bernie-sanders-questions-prompt-backlash

A more legitimate line of questioning based on Vought's writings would be along the lines:
  • Does he believe that people who disagree with him theologically deserve full protection under the law?
  • Would his religious beliefs impact decisions he made in his official capacity?
  • Would his religious beliefs impact any decisions related to the rights of employee's to express their personal religious views?
  • Would his religious beliefs preclude him from working amicably with people of different faiths?

The questioning that followed the lines of you believe non-Christians are damned then you are potentially incapable of fairly adjudicating an official government position is demonstrably false. False in the sense that I'm sure there have been millions of individuals who have held those beliefs in the USA who have served at all levels of government without it being an issue in their official decision making. That doesn't mean there aren't some Christians who have had their beliefs influence their duties but my estimation is they are a significant minority of Christians who have worked for or been part of the government.

36
General Comments / Trump Fires FBI Directer Comey
« on: May 10, 2017, 06:49:12 AM »

37
General Comments / I-85 Arson
« on: March 31, 2017, 09:42:05 PM »
Quote
Authorities in Atlanta say investigators have questioned three people in connection with Thursday's fire that caused part of Interstate 85 to collapse. Two of the individuals have been released but a third is still in custody.

Atlanta Fire Rescue Sgt. Cortez Stafford identifies the third person as Basil Eleby, saying, "He is the individual we are holding responsible for the fire and Fire Investigators believe it was set maliciously." Stafford says investigators aren't releasing details on how the blaze was started. He says the other two individuals are charged with criminal trespass.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/31/522170988/i-85-bridge-collapse-in-atlanta-brings-headache-to-250-000-drivers-a-day

Seems like the fire was deliberately set, it will be interesting to see what the motive was.

38
General Comments / Obama: Initial Final Grade
« on: February 08, 2017, 10:55:13 PM »
Thought I would post my analysis of Obama's presidency.

Overall: B-.  I think Obama will go down in history as a good but not great president and end up ranked in the 25th-50th percentiles by most presidential scholars.

Domestic: B. 
The good:
1) Obama inherited the country in the midst of the deepest recession since the great depression and ended up leading an economy that grew at a moderate pace for 6+ years. 
2) He implemented policies that ended up with 20 million more people insured.
3) Ended don't ask, don't tell (stupid policy) and DOMA (IMO unconstitutional).
4) Ended torture as an interrogation tactic.

The bad:
1) Despite being a gifted public speaker he failed to use those talents to effectively communicate with the American people (particularly Republicans), which in conjunction with Fox news led to an America where the opposing parties can barely agree on the facts much less what to do about it.*
2) He failed to reign in patriot act provisions that have the potential to be used to curtail liberties and freedoms.
3) He pursued and prosecuted governmental whistle-blowers vigorously.

*I get a lot of this has to do with the 24 hour news cycle endlessly looking for controversy and in particular Fox New's rhetoric. But Obama could have done better as well.

Foreign policy: C-.
Planned actions: B.
1) The Iran nuclear deal is probably as good as could have been achieved.
2) Generally strengthened our ties with long time allies (NATO, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.)

My biggest criticism of the planned foreign policy actions is the expansion of the drone program.  In particular profile attacks, or attacks where we kill people who are "acting" like or "look" like terrorists/Taliban.  If we are dropping bombs from the sky during peace time (and if it isn't peace time congress should get off their asses and declare war) we should know exactly who and why we are killing if that is our best option.

Stuff that happened: D.
1) Libya: Libya we either did too much or too little.  We either needed to use diplomacy (with the threat of force) to avoid the slaughtering of people in Benghazi or use enough force that the country didn't fall into chaos when the air strikes led to Gaddafi's death.
2) Syria: Likewise we either did too much or too little.  Obama should never have made the "red line" statements about chemical weapons.  Also he should have never backed himself into a corner very early on in the civil war by making Assad leaving a condition for a political solution.  We were then stuck with trying to find rebels to support without alienating Turkey (the Kurds would have been the easiest group to support otherwise.)  Again we should have either only been involved diplomatically or found a group to really support militarily to take over from Assad.
3) DAESH: Obama was slow to realize the threat posed by DAESH (in the region, not domestically) and coupled with a otherwise ineffective Syria policy left large regions of near anarchy for the barbarians to establish a territory to terrorize the local populace.


39
General Comments / Trump's EPA Pick
« on: December 08, 2016, 08:05:27 AM »
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/07/503626660/trump-reportedly-picks-oklahoma-attorney-general-scott-pruitt-to-lead-epa

It bothers me when Republicans specifically appoint people to head agencies that they don't believe should exist (or do the job they are tasked with doing).  I guess it gives them good material to run on in the next election about how ineffective and poorly functioning the federal government is.

40
General Comments / BLM: Social Media, Confirmation Bias, and Risk Analysis
« on: November 30, 2016, 11:14:56 PM »
These thoughts are partially in response to movements like BLM but apply to the more general issues of how we perceive reality and the dangers of creating false (or mostly false narratives through mostly isolated incidents).

Black lives matter caught on quickly because of the very real issues with policing in urban areas.  I can think of fewer mainstream policies that (IMO) are more unconstitutional than stop and frisk.  If walking down the street makes you subject to search and seizure I don't see how that doesn't violate the 4th amendment.  The war on drugs is a disaster, just like the "war on alcohol" was during prohibition.  But those policies combined with the increased crime that is typically correlated with poverty create a large segment of the population that views the police as adversaries or enemies. 

The issues with policing make it such that when a police officer kills a black man and the circumstances suspicious then confirmation bias kicks in to make the affected population believe the worst.  We saw this happen recently in Charlotte, police killed a man, his family claimed he was unarmed, turns out he did have a gun and refused to put it down (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/us/charlotte-officer-acted-lawfully-in-fatal-shooting-of-keith-scott.html?_r=0).  But there were several days of protests (and some rioting) following the shooting.  Ferguson (the starting point) is a similar story, Mike Brown almost certainly attacked the police officer before he was shot.  But the BLM movement is ready to believe the worst about police officers because of confirmation bias and the adversarial relationship they have with police.

Social media makes these incidents "feel" closer to individuals.  The victim is no longer some guy that the traditional media reports on which can feel distant, it's a friend of a friend on facebook.  Two to three degrees of separation between an individual and the victim will make the incident feel more personal mostly because people will underestimate how big 2-3 degrees of separation in their online social networks is.  This leads to a vastly overestimated risk analysis for this type of incident.  We live in a country of 300+ million people, with over 40 million African Americans.  Bad stuff is going to happen so someone pretty regularly.  Police will have many interactions with young black men and 99.9+% of them don't end with the black man getting shot.  But a narrative grew about the danger that police posed to young black men, that is ultimately dangerous to the police and black men.  We have seen several police assassinations by people motivated by this narrative* that the police are running around rampant shooting black men at will.  I'm sure that this will cause some men when interacting with police to act in overly defensive ways (that lead to aggression) that either cause them to be injured, killed, or incarcerated for longer than they otherwise would have been.

I have a feeling we are going to see more of these types of movements in the future.  The human brain responds strongly to new perceived risks particularly when someone "we know" is harmed in a particular way.  We could see a movement like this spring up against self driving cars even if they end up on the whole to reduce traffic fatalities.

The conclusion here is: there are real issues with policing (but almost never is it them shooting people for no reason), confirmation bias (b/c of those issues) leads a group to believe the worst immediately, social media and poor risk analysis lead us to vastly overestimate the risk which can lead to narratives that don't truly reflect reality and can be dangerous.

*The "left" needs to recognize the danger of these narratives and speak out against them the same way they would when conservative christian groups liken abortion to the holocaust and abortion providers to nazi death squads.  Both narratives don't comport fully with reality and lead fringe members of the group to believe violent actions are justified and necessary.

41
General Comments / Analysis of the Candidates/Election
« on: October 24, 2016, 11:52:39 PM »
I do more lurking here than posting.  But thought I would throw together my thoughts on the election and the few issues that come up all in one thread vs trying to do a bunch of shorter posts in the appropriate threads. I'll break it up into chunks feel free to respond to just parts even if you don't feel like reading the whole thing.


The Candidates:
Clinton Overview:
Domestic:
Clinton is a very ambitious women who seeks power.  She is mostly a political centrist who was pulled to the left somewhat in her platform by Bernie but I have very little faith she will aggressively pursue that agenda in office, nor do I really think she could accomplish anything with that agenda due to likelihood that the Republicans retain control of the house.  Clinton will pursue policies that preserve the status quo but do very little to reverse the trend of the economy growing for the wealthy.  Largely because this is a result of economic forces largely beyond the control of the president and it would take a concerted effort with at minimum a non-hostile congress to make any real headway on that economic front.  Bernie could have maybe done something if he had won the nomination and somehow managed to get enough dems in the house to have a majority there.  Clinton will simply not pursue policies that accelerate the trend.  She is likely lying about the TPP.  If elected I expect her to work aggressively behind the scenes to have the Senate ratify the treaty before the actually takes office.  On most social issues I expect she will ride the younger generations wave of a more tolerant society but I don't expect any big leadership initiative from her.

Foreign policy:
Clinton is too hawkish for me, IMO she is too willing to kill to affect policy around the world for my tastes.  I see a real danger in our political class being ever more willing to kill others when the risk of American casualties is zero (drones) or almost zero.  There are bad people in the world but very few should be shot/droned on sight. 


Trump Overview: Trump is a narcissist and compulsive liar.  I don't trust a word he has said.  He isn't going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it (because they won't).  If he did build a wall the cartels and smugglers would use $100 blow torches and concrete saws to cut through our billion dollar fence.  So unless we're willing the build the iron curtain, mine the border, and put machine gun nests and snipers to take out people crossing we should just invest a little more in border agents if we care that much.  Several statements Trump has put out about how he would combat terrorism make him the scariest and most unfit person to be this close to the oval office in my lifetime. Bombing their families is a war crime, and when confronted with statements by generals that they would not follow his illegal orders his response was they would if I gave them.  A man willing to issue illegal orders to assassinate people he knows are innocent is beyond the pale. 


Summary: I'll vote for Clinton because I live in a battleground.  In another state I would probably write in Bernie.


Big issues:
The second amendment/Gun control:
Heller while a change in judicial precedent was probably decided correctly based on interpretation of the bill of rights following the civil war and resulting amendments that have largely been interpreted as the Federal government being the guarantor of the rights and not just an agency that won't curtail them.  While I believe we need more gun control than we have now I find it hard to find serious fault with a ruling that gives the federal government greater responsibility for ensuring our rights are protected from every level of government.

That being said a reversal of Heller would do almost nothing to curtail gun rights for the vast majority who care about them because they don't live places that would enact gun restrictions.  So please clam down, Hillary is going to pass exactly as much gun control legislation as Obama (zero). 

TPP: Trump would probably oppose the TPP b/c he didn't negotiate it and simply out of hatred of anything Obama.  Clinton as I mentioned before I think will use every bit of influence she has to have it go through during the lame duck session so she doesn't have to publicly reverse and support it.  This trade deal is probably a decent deal for the USA, there will be some people who lose and lose big but as a country it will probably be a small boost (similar to economists analysis of NAFTA).

Obamacare: A hostile executive could probably run Obamacare into the ground. Trump has experience poorly managing things, if that is your hope he is the right man for the job.  Clinton would need a congress that cares about governing effectively to fix the biggest flaws in the plan and I don't see that happening.  So with Clinton we probably get 4 more years of the plan limping along and helping out a few people but not as many as it should.

42
General Comments / Republican Leadership needs to Step Up
« on: March 04, 2016, 09:48:55 PM »
Romney on Trump
Quote
On the other hand, if we make improvident choices, the bright horizon I’ve described will not materialize. And let me put it very plainly. If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.
...
His proposed 35 percent tariff-like penalties would instigate a trade war and that would raise prices for consumers, kill our export jobs and lead entrepreneurs and businesses of all stripes to flee America.
...
So even though Donald Trump has offered very few specific economic plans, what little he has said is enough to know that he would be very bad for American workers and for American families.
...
Mr. Trump’s bombast is already alarming the allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies.
...
I’m afraid that when it comes to foreign policy he is very, very not smart.
...
Donald Trump says he admires Vladimir Putin, at the same time he has called George W. Bush a liar. That is a twisted example of evil trumping good.
...
Dishonesty is Donald Trump’s hallmark. He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq.
...
Haven’t we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have. And it always injures our families and our country.
...
Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.
...
He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers.
...
His domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.

I’m convinced America has greatness ahead. And this is a time for choosing. God bless us to choose a nominee who will make that vision a reality.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/04/us/politics/mitt-romney-speech.html?_r=0

Despite all of this virtually every elected Republican says they will support the Nominee of the Republican party.  That is insane.  Trump is a bully and extraordinarily authoritarian.  As DW pointed out when told that military leaders say his orders are illegal he says the military will carry them out because he is a leader.  The honest evaluations of the damage a trump presidency are undercut when they basically say yeah but Hilary would be worse because she is a Democrat.  Hilary is a known quantity, the country didn't fall apart under Bill and we could expect a pretty similar admin with Hilary.  Hilary is a mainstream career politician, you may disagree with her policies and some of her decisions but she is pretty much be a typical centrist president.  No democracy ending, world war starting, autocrat. 

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