Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trump and Comey and Sessions OH MY!

Watching this soap opera unfold in the Senate is an absolute joke. Basically everyone says everyone else is lying. Of course Trump can't make up his mind whether Comey "vindicated" him or told terrible lies about him.

Sessions say the whole Russian collusion idea is a lie. Well, Jeff baby, it's only a lie if the person making the accusation knows it's a lie.

What to make of this he said, he said, he said fiasco?

It's generally been my experience that people lie when either they (a) can gain something from the lie or (b) they need to protect themselves. I think we can pretty much exclude the altruistic white lie from the conversation.

The guy that appears to have the least to gain or protect is Comey. That doesn't mean he isn't lying but it's not clear to me what reason he would have for opening himself up to perjury charges.

Trump isn't making his statements under oath and I'm not sure Sessions knows the difference between a lie and the truth.

So I sort of suspect that Comey is closest to being completely honest, Sessions is a distant second and Trump still trying to get out of the starting gate.

Do I think Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice in the Flynn investigation? Yes, I do. Do I think he meant to obstruct justice? No, I think he was simply doing the same sort of backroom maneuvering he's used to in the business world and didn't realize what he was doing was illegal.

Do I think the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to tilt the 2016 election to Trump? Six months ago I would have said that' ridiculous but now I'm not so sure.

So what happens if that turns out to be the case? The proper thing to do would be for Trump and Pence to resign or be impeached leaving Paul Ryan as president.

Do I think that will ever happen? Not in a million years. Even if you could come up with sufficient evidence I'm sure the Republicans would come up with some "alternate facts" to try and smooth the whole thing over.

Do I think this could lead to civil war? Probably not. I don't think enough people are ready to start killing in the streets over this.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Paris Accords on Climate

I never learn. Seriously, I never learn. I always assume that people actually understand what I think is before deciding whether it's a good witch or a bad witch.

After going though a few comment sections on the Paris it was obvious that no one, including Trump and his "advisers," had any idea what was in the agreement.

First, allow me to identify what is an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution or INDC. An INDC is the amount of emission reduction that a country VOLUNTARILY establishes as a target in order to meet the stated goals in the agreement of (1) staying below an average temperature gain of 2 degrees C or (2) staying below an average temperature gain of 1.5 degrees C.

Switzerland was the first country to submit an INDC calling for a reduction of 50% of emissions over the 2005 level by 2030.

India's INDC called for a 33%-35% reduction per unit of GDP by 2030 but warned it would need $2.5 trillion in financing to meet that goal.

China's INDC called for a 60%-65% reduction per unit of GDP by 2030.

The US INDC called for a 26%-28% reduction of green house gases over the 2005 levels by 2025.

However notice the slight problem here. Different INDCs are specifying targets in different ways.

Switzerland and the USA are specifying their targets in total reduction of green house gases (GHG). China and India are specifying their targets per unit of GDP which means their total emissions may actually increase.

Why the difference?

Because while Switzerland and the USA are "developed countries" by the United Nations definition, China and India are considered "developing countries" whose GDP per capita is still a fraction of the GDP per capita of developed countries,

So basically that's the problem that people express in different ways. I'm more than a little terrified that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn't appear to have a clue as to not only the details of the Paris Accords but even as to who emits the most GHG.

Who emits the most you ask? It depends upon how you're measuring. You can measure either as total emissions or emissions per capita.

In total emissions China is first followed by the US then the European Union and then India, In terms of emissions per capita the US is larger than China and India combined but I think total emissions is the more important way to measure.

And China is a real problem. Its total emissions of 10 millions kilotons of CO2 is twice the US total of 5 million kilotons. Yet as a "developing country" China will do no more than stop the increase of CO2 per year by 2030.

The assumption is that developed countries have the technological base to do more in a shorter perios of time. The Obama administration has made the right moves for the US to meet its INDC by 2025.

With Trump trying to resurrect the dead coal industry and allowing the initiatives of the Obama Administration to wither, there's not a snowball's chance in hell.

This may well turn out to be the stupidest decision ever made by a so-called President of the United States. Luckily states and cities in the US are moving forward and essentially saying fuck you Trump.

It's only a matter of time before a Trumpian pronouncement forces some of the states to refuse to implement or enforce what he's ordering. If Trump then tries to force the issue all hell will break loose.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Trump Pulls out of Paris Accords

President Trump has announced that he intends to pull out of the Paris Accords on climate.

If you needed any additional evidence that Trump in particular, and Republicans in general, care absolutely nothing for the country, the planet and the people living on the planet this should do it.

This is a pure play to the under 80 IQ trailer part set. This is beyond stupid; this borders on criminal.

The science on climate change is very clear despite what some conservative pundits try to claim. It's not that hard to understand.

By digging up fossil fuels such as oil and coal, and burning them, we have added to the carbon cycle by putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Add to that deforestation and the cutting down of rain forests, which decreases the amount of carbon dioxide being taken out of the atmosphere, and you get a slow but steady build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This is clear from measurements.

Carbon dioxide is a hothouse gas. It tends to hold in heat. This is leading to a slow but steady rise in global temperatures. The rise in global temperatures is leading to melting icecaps, rising sea levels and shifting climate.

Everyone in the world appears to understand this except Trump. the Republicans, Syria and Nicaragua.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump's Budget Growth Assumptions

All budgets make assumptions about anticipated growth and the Trump budget proposal is no different. They're assuming a 3%-4% growth rate long term.

Most economists think that's unrealistic.

Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney, rather than DEFENDING their assumptions. attacked the growth assumptions the Obama administration made in sort of a macabre tu quoque pastiche.

The Obama administration assumptions were in line with so-called economic wisdom at the time and after a short 3%-4% recovery phase estimated a long term growth in the 2%-2.4% range.

These numbers also lined up with the CBO estimates because historically the US economy has rebounded for a short period at about double the depression rate before settling into a more modest long term growth.

To put it bluntly, they were wrong. Growth was only about 2% average coming out of the recession. Why? Because economics is one part mathematics, one part black magic and one part confidence and the nation never really recovered its confidence in the economy because the "recovery" was so uneven. Some areas recovered quickly and other areas can justifiable ask "what recovery?"

Now the Trump administration is assuming 3%-4% SUSTAINED growth, which is much more optimistic than anything the Obama administration ever assumed, without providing any justification beyond we're going to cut taxes and then a miracle will happen.

Trump's Budget Proposal

Basically the proposal calls for slashing just about every social safety net including Medicaid, SNAP and Social Security Disability while increasing defense spending by some $50 billion, increasing the Homeland Security budget and allocated a few billion for that stupid wall.

The budget also calls for significant cuts in almost every department including the EPA and the Department of State.

Let me start by saying that I'm am absolutely in favor of a balanced budget. As a matter of fact after the budget is balanced I would like to pare the debt a little bit year by year until it gets to a more manageable level.

But now the question becomes who pays for balancing the budget and trimming the debt? Apparently the Republicans believe that the most vulnerable people in our society are the ones that should pay because, by some incredibly twisted logic, they seem to think that the poor, the elderly and the disabled have somehow benefited the most from our overspending while the rich and powerful not only haven't benefited but have been stoically footing the bill.

How do you think these folks got wealthy? By being taken advantage of or by benefiting from the overspending that has occurred?

We all know it's the latter so now that the time has come to pay the piper, how about we ask those who can most afford it and have benefited the most from the splurging to carry most of the burden.

I'm willing to kick in a few more shekels to help balance the budget but NOT to finance another $50 billion in military spending or to build a silly wall because El Jefe in Washington has to throw lots of scraps and raw meat to those who financed his campaign.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Roger Ailes is Dead

I was wondering why the air smelled better this morning. Then I found out that Roger Ailes had died which solved the mystery.

Ailes was an evil man. He wasn't on the scale of a Hitler or a Stalin perhaps but the damage he's done with the innuendo laced, accurate but misleading and outright lying format that still dominates Fox News probably won't be repaired for decades and may never be repaired.

Fox News is not a news station. It's a Right Wing propaganda outlet and needs to be viewed that way.

Allow me to provide a recent example and explain exactly what Fox is doing.

In Mid-March two young men in Maryland, 17 and 18 years old, were accused of raping a 14 year-old female classmate in a bathroom stall at their high school.

One of those young men was an undocumented immigrant.

That was all it took, simply an accusation, for Fox News, in the person of Tucker Carlson,  to go all beast mode on illegal immigration. Carlson claimed that city officials “don’t want to think about the connection illegal immigration might have to this crime or others like it.”

Carlson's conclusion about the case was “This is insanity, of course, a sign of a sick civilization at war with itself. A strong country enforces its laws and protects its citizens. That’s Job One. In the U.S., too often we ignore our own laws and allow ruin to be visited on our own people.”

Now, notice two things, first he is assuming the boys are guilty even though he interviewed their lawyer who told him the sex was consensual. Carlson's response was to badger the attorney saying “You’d better be right about this because if you’re going to be impugning the character of a 14-year-old girl who says she was raped — other people said they heard her screams.”

Second, notice that he is introducing things that may or may not be true as facts. (1) Illegal immigration has a significant connection to crime. (2) City officials don't want to think about that. (3) People heard the girl scream. (4) In the US we ignore our own laws. (5) You're in danger because these things allow "ruin to be visited on our own people."

All of these things are asserted as facts with no justification, no evidence and no dissenting opinion. A lot of people are going to walk away from this barrage believing all of this crap.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, the charges against the two boys were dropped because as the county prosecutor put it, “The facts of this case do not support the original charges filed."

Now Fox News wasn't the only Right Wing outlet jumping to conclusions but they were probably heard by the most people and did the most damage.

So, they're going to issue a retraction right? ****crickets****

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DOJ Appoints Special Counsel

The Trump administration appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller Friday evening as a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into allegations Russia and Donald Trump's campaign collaborated to influence the 2016 presidential election.

This is precisely the right thing to do.

We need to get this resolved one way or the other and Mueller is clearly qualified to head the investigation.

Everyone should be happy with this move which is the first intelligent thing Trump has done since taking office.

I suspect he's learning that you can't steamroll things. That's probably a good thing.

Monday, May 15, 2017

May Gallup Poll

The folks over at Gallup have provided us some interesting numbers in their May poll on social issues.

The first is a record high number of Americans saying Gay Marriage should be legal at a whopping 64%. When Gallup first started asking the question in 1996 only 27% supported it.

The support for same sex relations has also climbed to 72%. I hear NOM has a financial crisis. If so, then given these numbers it's not going to get better any time soon.

Democrats support Gay Marriage by 74%, Independents by 71% and even Republicans are figuring it out as support among the GOP has inched up to 47%.

The second interesting tidbit is that for the first time more people view the Bible as "a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man" than as the literal word of God by 26% to 24%. Most of the middle group still think it's "inspired by God" at 47%.

Men, at 36%, are more likely to consider it a book of fables than women at 24%. College graduates at 36% are more skeptical than those with no college at 19%.

The younger you are the more likely you'll view the Bible as a group of fables. Of those 18-29, 33% viewed it skeptically and of those 30-49 33% viewed it skeptically.

Well, that's a start but we still have a long way to go.