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28.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Misleader Permalink to this item

It's never been that easy to watch the political theatrics of a presidential address, but we pay half a thousand civil servants to do it every so often. At our house, we gave the current president's first go a try, but wearied of it after the second or third standing ovation.

Ok, it was the second.

Anyway, it is more important than ever to verify claims, am I right? Ironically, we depend on what the president calls "fake news" to fake-check, excuse me, fact-check what spews forth. Various reporters contributed to this NYT effort and its slightly too delicate assessments.

The rage that "the murder rate in 2015 experienced its largest single-year increase in nearly half a century," for example, was judged "true, but somewhat misleading," a rather nice way to say, a statistic taken out of context and used dishonestly, apparently for its rabble-rousing effect.

Facts (supplied by real news reporter Charlie Savage): FBI crime statistics estimate that there were 15,696 murders in 2015, up 10 percent from 2014, and down from 1991, when the population was considerably smaller. From 1991 to 2015, the number of murders was down by MORE THAN A THIRD. And population went up by almost a third. The murder rate is down by HALF in the last 2½ decades.

So maybe the long-term decline finally bottomed out. Maybe "street crime in a handful of large cities, like Chicago and Baltimore" explains the increase. Maybe (surely) there are other factors.

But context and subtlety do not incite a mob.

And so on. Cherry-picked. Outright false. Exaggeration. This needs context. This is misleading.

Five minutes to midnight Permalink to this item

Yet another fundraising deadline missed, the FEC will not be reporting my contribution to the NRCC. So sad for Paul Ryan who dangled "the Democrats' game plan" in front of me for incentive. Those despicable Dems "are trying to separate us because that’s what they do—divide people with identity politics."

The threat being that "our Party will start to splinter," as if the Democrats could feed that beast?

Karl Rove was also pitching against the deadline, with the cheerful observation that "The Democrat Party is in its worst shape since the 1920's." My contribution could >>>Help keep it this way<<< Rove:

"I’ve worked in politics a long time, and know things can change in a heartbeat. But Democrats are in deep trouble and the only way they can climb back into contention is to obstruct, attack, and lie.

"Just turn on the news and you’ll see this liberal propaganda, all aimed at beating the GOP in the midterm elections.

"That’s what makes this FEC deadline so important. It’ll determine whether or not we can overcome these vicious assaults from Democrats on every issue, on every appointment (especially Pres. Trump’s Supreme Court pick), and on every day."

And below the "pitch in" links, the close:

"Democrats will do everything they can to destroy President Trump and our united Republican government. They are desperate. They have nothing to lose. . .and so that makes the Democrats dangerous."

"We must fight back now before their attacks and lies sink in.

If only I would pitch in, Rove says I would have his "gratitude," so sweetly. Thank goodness we have one political party that would never obstruct, attack, lie or divide.

26.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Looters Permalink to this item

We stand on the shoulders of giants, of course, and imagine ourselves eight feet tall. Or perhaps larger. But failure is always an option, and it could be a long way down.

Last week, professor Shiller's economic view on the question of too many regulations? has this phrase that flies over the top of the simple-minded political rhetoric that is all the rage just now: our immensely valuable regulatory framework. The print headline ended with "Let's not be hasty," while the web take tweets the teaser more directly: Why Trump’s 2-for-1 Rule on Regulations Is No Quick Fix.

Waves of color at sunset

File it under "things that should go without saying and used to, but apparently do not, now."

We are, the implication goes, overweight with regulations. We have a regulation addiction. We are hampered, hindered, hobbled, hamstrung with excess protection, and if only we were free from all that, a thousand flowers would bloom.

Or something. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't have to make sense. It's about emotional satisfaction, and "reflecting a long-term societal schism between highly business-oriented people and those of other persuasions." Shiller says he sees it "reflected in my own extended family, where the Trump supporters tend to have strong business connections and seem to take regulation as a personal affront, as if it stands as a barrier to their self-actualization and personal fulfillment."

Are regulators out of control? The question seems slightly nonsensical. Have we gone too far with regulations? In some cases, arguably. In others, not so much, and the contest between the those who would be regulated and those who stand to benefit is asymmetric.

"[R]egulators must steer around a minefield of complex deceptions and subterfuges set up by special interests, distortions that become accepted as an everyday reality, to the detriment of consumers. Assuming a reflexive pro-business bias — assuming that businessmen can do no wrong and that regulations can be pared back mechanically — is inconsistent with making difficult judgments about subtle deceptions."

We tire of subtlety, some of us. Let's just blow stuff up. Turn some bull loose in the china shop.

Say the looters out on the sidewalk, waiting for a chance to grab whatever doesn't get broken in the wave of destruction.

24.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Alternative history Permalink to this item

What does a snowflake look like when it goes through the looking glass? Conservative HQ's editor George Rasley, gaslighting for the fake news enterprises that ushered our current president into office. With a little history (alt-history?) about newspapers in Germany a century ago. (If you like appeals to authority, please note his "family has been in the media and newspaper business for over 160 years.")

It's not the free press that prevents dictatorships, people: just exactly the opposite. And wouldn't you know, it's another "WAR ON":

"Rather than suppressing news, the Nazi propaganda apparatus instead sought to tightly control its flow and interpretation and to deny access to alternative sources of news.

"Which is exactly what the progressive Left did during the Obama years, and what it is doing now through its war on President Trump and his supporters in conservative opinion and news outlets, especially in the new and alternative media.

"But then again, the establishment media here in the United States has a long history of politicizing the news in favor of tyranny, and for the purposes of making money."

As the not-yet-president tweeted on January 11, "Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Maybe you thought that was supposed to be a rhetorical question, but having set the historical stage, Rasley answers, striking with "the parallels between the situation in Germany then and America now":

"In America today, the threat to constitutional liberty comes not from President Trump, but from a small politicized media elite that feeds an unending stream of propaganda to its audience. Opponents are vilified through campaigns of personal destruction, anti-Semitism is rampant, the duly elected government is claimed to be illegitimate and alternative sources of information and opinion are marginalized by the establishment propaganda organs."

Conservative HQ will do in a pinch, but if you want to know what's True, all you have to do is go to a Trump rally, or follow the sur-@realDonaldTrump Twitter feed. Ignorance is strength.

President's Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not president's day Permalink to this item

Mike Pence spent his holiday weekend working, to reassure European leaders that we have not gone totally crazy over here. It's a rate equation: does our vice-president have enough fingers to stop all the credibility leaking out of our dike of state?

And the ever-present question: what are we being distracted from? The disaster of the first 30 days of the new administration. Mike Flynn's flameout. There are enough disclosed conflicts of interest in the president's businesses, but all those undisclosed compromises to his integrity that he's keeping secret in his tax returns.

Why would there be any reason to trust him?

As Jay Rosen observes, we have no choice but to trust that he won't blow us all up. The Presidency is being revised before our eyes:

"In his grip, it no longer attempts to muffle anxiety about the President and make people around the world feel okay about granting one person such enormous, unthinkable and inhuman powers. Instead, a new model is proposed: the president keeps everyone in a constant state of excitement and alarm. He moves fast and breaks things. He leads by causing commotion. As energy in the political system rises he makes no effort to project calm or establish an orderly White House. And if he keeps us safe it’s not by being himself a safe, steady, self-controlled figure, but by threatening opponents and remaining brash and unpredictable—maybe a touch crazy."

Before the weekend, before the third trip to the "southern White House," before $millions more spent on security for a globe-trotting family that is mostly putting its interest ahead of all of ours, before the "campaign" rally in Florida, after a dodgy, seemingly cocked-up report on Fox News in which Tucker Carlson hosted a filmmaker and scenes of three or four unnamed incidents from who knows where or when were played multiple times, the president brought up "what happened in Sweden on Friday."

Those not in the Fox News audience—including pretty much everyone in Sweden—had no idea.

US crime rates are down in recent decades. In very round numbers, the murder rate in this country is about 5 per 100,000 population per year. Sexual assault numbers are about 100 per hundred thousand. One in a thousand.

Sweden's round numbers are 1 per 100,000 for homicide, and 1 to 2 per 100,000 sexual assault. Five times lower. Fifty times lower. Because it's Sweden, after all.

And yes, the the legitimate media checked the numbers and found the president's innuendo absurd.

On the ligher side: 10 questions that were left off Trump's mainstream media accountability survey. Just one:

33. Do you agree that there’s nothing desperate about presenting Americans with a confusingly worded polemic against the mainstream media disguised as a survey?

___ YES, this gives me a lot of faith in the administration.

___ NO, I am a hater and a total loser.

19.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The fiduciary rule seems likely Permalink to this item

Catching up on my reading, here's a timely update and amplification to the issue brought up on the 7th. The NYT editorial board reports on a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Dallas Division that they figure did the president a favor.

The national Chamber of Commerce, et al., sued the Department of Labor, and the judge granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment in an 81 page smackdown.

Can the Trump adminstration take a hint? We shall see. If not, we'll see it in court, yet again.

18.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Back to school Permalink to this item

Newly minted SecEd Betsy DeVos' first day at school didn't go too well. First there were the protesters, "leftwing fascists" reminding us of "the totalitarian left" as Professor Gingrich put it, but she took that obstacle in stride and found the back door. Then after she seemed to play well enough with others, her debrief with Cal Thomas got a little funky. The protests are "sponsored and very carefully planned," she imagined up front. "Have you considered some political theater of your own," Thomas wondered, using some poor and minority kids for props?

Winter pond

She didn't answer the question, but celebrated the example of the big demonstration in Tallahassee last year in favor of school vouchers, and against the Florida Education Association's lawsuit defending public school funding.

As for this visit to Jefferson Middle School Academy, she praised the "wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students," even though "our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently." [sic] Hmm?

"But I can tell the attitude is more of a 'receive mode.' They're waiting to be told what they have to do, and that's not going to bring success to an individual child."

Perhaps she was seeking to prove her point that "top-down solutions never work in anything"? At any rate the teachers weren't having her "instructive" commentary and fired back.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson was with DeVos for the field trip, and saw it a little differently.

"I’ve worked in schools for my entire professional life — as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. I have learned from much experience what it takes to prepare students for college success. The teaching and learning at Jefferson will put our students on a path to college, successful careers, and beyond. I see that. Our teachers see that. Our students see that. And our parents see that. Defying expectations takes experience and a lifelong dedication to all students. DCPS is rich with educators who have this experience."

Did we mention experience?

Vile Permalink to this item

That headline is from rancher, retired investigative reporter, and now weekly paper owner/publisher Les Zaitz. And the lede from a man who knows something about dark underbellies, David Neiwert, on Facebook yesterday:

Every working journalist in America; every citizen who values a free press and the First Amendment; every living being who despises tyranny: The moment has now arrived for you to stand up and be counted.

This must not only be opposed, it must be overthrown—constitutionally, legally, peacefully. But this administration, this petty Banana Republic dictator in the making, cannot stand.

The gauntlet has been thrown down. Americans, if you love your freedom, you must pick it up.

He responds to the tweet from our lord high emporer: "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" as a capper to the spectacular press con, just before launching his 2020 campaign as a side gig for his third straight taxpayer-funded weekend down south.

Except that he didn't wait until mid-February to launch. He signed the FEC papers the day he was inaugurated. Not "a formal announcement," just getting started raising money. A man supposedly as rich as Croesus accepting more donations, go figure.

I bet it isn't fake news that "Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort."

Republican heads are not exploding in apoplectic indignation at the profligate waste of taxpayer's hard-earned ducats, or the IED detonated under yet another political norm. Campaigns start, and end? Not any more. Ok, then. Conflict of interest? Emoluments? We have no idea what you are talking about. Governing?

Ah, but since we're in the campaign now, I guess it's too late to confirm any more nominees for the Supreme Court this term. We should listen to the voice of the American people.

Neiwert added a comment:

"Everyone seems baffled by [Thursday's] press-conference performance. I saw it for what it was: Trump establishing his authoritarian alternative universe in real time. Talk to any of his admirers and every single one of them loved it, because he was giving the media the what-for."

Indeed, The CHQ staff deemed it an "epic beatdown of the media elite", with a swirling dollop of anti-Semitism on top. Real America, they say, will be sticking with him. If you don't like our new commander, you are not Real. Neiwert continues:

"This is what all authoritarians do: Establish themselves, and only themselves, as the true authority defining reality itself—indeed, it MUST diverge from the lived reality the rest of us share. Us against them. And the 'them' is now well-defined: the media, liberals, immigrants, Muslims, queers, colored people—anyone who insists on living in the shared reality of the real world, rather than the shared pseudo-reality of Donald Trump's Alt-America.

"This tweet not only establishes that, it reads to me like a call to arms. Dangerous waters lie ahead, folks."

17.Feb.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sit down. I understand the rest of your question Permalink to this item

If only this line had been delivered to a well-oiled after-dinner audience:

"This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine."

The script needed [pause for laughter], and the claque—they were Right There, squatting in the two front rows—needed a bloody CUE. Instead, nothing. Tough crowd.

How does it feel? To be on your own? Like a rolling stone.

Speaking of which, Tessa Stuart collected these 18 WTF Moments From Trump's Unhinged Press Conference for Rolling Stone. That seems too much like fake news, but the full transcript is out there, 30 or 40 pages, and the video, in whole or in part.

Are those gold curtains new? The lighting? Something's different, I can't quite put my finger on it. The new guy does seem to be getting a handle on parts of the job anyway. This:

"If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along—and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other."

Unless you have enough questions. That’s always a possibility.

I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we’ve done.

And I hope going forward we can be a little bit—a little bit different, and maybe get along a little bit better, if that’s possible. Maybe it’s not, and that’s OK, too.

I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.

It’s all fake news. It’s all fake news.

Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given—I actually, I’ve seen that information around. But it was a very substantial victory, do you agree with that?

I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But—but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it.

Quiet. Quiet. Quiet. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me...

This is comedy gold, big league. Until somebody blows something up, then that won't be fun. Believe me. Alrighty then. We'll be here all week.

Oh wait, no we won't. There's a campaign rally at the Atlanta airport this weekend.

16.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Can't make this up Permalink to this item

Our cheap Russian novel, serialized in hundreds of media outlets, continues apace. Never mind a hundred days, we're fewer than thirty into the parade of catastrophe that is the so-called presidency of He Who Must Not Be Named, and there is no unroiled (or unsoiled) institution in the country.

After years, and untold $millions spent on "investigating" the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, and its one great prize (Hillary Clinton used a private email server!) now that we have something of global political import that's barking at our door, Republicans have utterly lost their curiosity.

Mikhail Klimentyev/Rianovosti/Epa photo

Do they want to talk about Paul Manafort's dossier? Old news! He was fired from the campaign way back in August. Michael Flynn's jumping the gun with freelance diplomacy, now let go from two different administrations? (Celebrate the bipartisan agreement, at least.) Let's move on!

Rex Tillerson's oily, decades-long love affair with Russia, interrupted by sanctions imposed after the takeover of Crimea, which Flynn was hinting might be lifted? Oh no, Tillerson put on a good show for the Senate, tap-dancing around his previous career.

Do we want to talk about the soon to be swamped winter White House, and posh swells getting an inside look at the so-called man of the people leading the nation into crisis?

Cerberus at Hades' feet, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete, Greece

No, it's time to FIND OUT WHO'S LEAKING ALL THIS INFORMATION to the press. Steve Bannon's bright idea is to have the billionaire co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management start rooting around to see what all is going on at the country's intelligence agencies. That's right, the guy from the company specializing in "distressed investing" and named after the multi-headed dog that guards the underworld is going to see what all is going on at the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Twenty-Fifth Air Force, Marine Corps Intelligence, Coast Guard Intelligence, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the CIA, NSA, DEA, and FBI.

Don't know who DNI guy

(Feinberg said that while the name seemed like a good idea at the time, "he later regretted naming the company after the mythological dog." And fun fact found in Wikipedia: Dan Quayle's found a sinecure in the underworld too, currently chairman of Cerberus Global Investments, LLC.)

IDK, don't we have a DNI? Nope, MIA. We have an acting DNI, Michael Dempsy, but the top two manly spots are shown as Blue Man Group washouts (too much hair). So in the meantime, yes, sure, bring on another billionaire cozy with the hands inside the tiny inner Oval to investigate the proliferation of methane gas coming out of Foggy Bottom.

There is one thing that we're just a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y sure we don't want to talk about: those mysterious tax returns of the man at the top. Let us shout TARANTARA! for the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who "will not allow Washington to return to the bad old days when government officials used their powers to intimidate, harass and destroy their political enemies." His committee Republicans were unanimous about that. (Unless of course we're talking about enemies with the surname "Clinton.")

13.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The magic of wholesale election fraud Permalink to this item

The brainiac behind the immigration ban that came acropper in Judge Robart's court was all the rage on yesterday's talk shows, and after seeing part of his performance, I tweeted a gentle suggestion.

Just saying, if you don't want to look like Nazis, keep Miller in the back office.

— Tom von Alten (@fortboise) February 13, 2017

As George Stephanopolous pointed out for the record, Miller provided zero evidence of his fabulous claims. But just "talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem," he said. Anybody! Everybody!

One of our Federal Election Commissioners responded (six sentences on one page, maybe a bit too-verbose for the current administration) that "the extraordinarily serious and specific charge" cannot be ignored and that after the president shares what evidence he has with the public and with appropriate law-enforcement authorities, the allegations can "be investigated promptly and thoroughly."

While it's vaguely amusing to keep talking about how New Hampshire voters cast their lot with Hillary Clinton, and ousted a Republican from the U.S. Senate, pay attention to the little man behind the curtain. Philip Bump's analysis for WaPo finds the nugget of truth mixed in the flung dung: "An issue of voter fraud is something we’re going to be looking at very seriously and very hard."

It doesn't have to be real to be top of the news. And just because it's fake, doesn't mean it can't be extremely effective.

"The reason voter fraud has become an issue in American politics is because there have been a slew of bills introduced (and often passed) at the state level alleging voter fraud that needed to be curtailed. That legislation generally makes it harder to vote, with the effects of that increased difficulty felt more among populations that tend to vote more heavily Democratic.

Young people, newly registered voters and black people.

"...Miller notes that the full weight of the Justice Department will aid the effort, a department now led by Jeff Sessions, who prosecuted voter fraud as state attorney general and who has expressed mixed views on the Voting Rights Act, the Civil-Rights-era legislation aimed at preventing voter suppression in the South.

"Miller’s point? New policies to combat the insignificant threat of voter fraud will probably move to the national level."

You want massive fraud, it won't do to go about it retail. Taking the bus to vote in two or three states is expensive and slow, even in those little states along the east coast. The same wholesale program that worked in the 2016 election is the Republican playbook for 2018, and 2020.

Greg Palast wrote the book in 2012 and points out that 2016 was "the very first presidential election following the gutting of the Voting Rights Act." You don't need "millions" when a few tens of thousands will get the job done:

"...for example, we have a Trump margin of victory in Michigan of 13,107. The crosscheck purge list in Michigan was 449,922. Now, I want to be careful—when you go through that list, there’s a lot of people who have actually moved or something … in fact, most people on this list were not removed. I figure about, from my experience, the absolute minimum number of removals is only about 12 percent. But only 12 percent of 449-450,000—you’re talking 50,000 people [removed from the Michigan voter rolls], almost all voters of color, overwhelmingly."

Update: The Sunday talk show bits were first I'd seen of Miller, but it seems he is part of the expanding universe of toxic personality disorder in the White House. Featured on Univision: from joyless high school provocateur to the tiny inner circle in the Oval Office.

"Some of Miller's fellow high school students ... say they recognize Miller's voice when they listen to Trump speeches. [Ari] Rosmarin[, editor of their high school's newspaper] said that re-reading Miller's writings in high school gave him an eerie feeling. “It's like you're reading Trump's words, written by a 16-year-old kid from California,” he said."

Update #2: No need to read all of Charles P. Pierce's take for Esquire, but the first paragraph alone is worth a jump. It gets stranger, and darker. "If you had a president slipping into megalomania, Miller is exactly the wrong kind of sycophant with which to surround him."

11.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dumbing down is warming up Permalink to this item

Up north in our old stomping grounds, the last redistricting merged Latah and Benewah counties into District 5, making for some "interesting" geographic and political diversity. Benewah has a population of just over 9,000 and on the way down (9,285 in the 2010 census; 9,044 as of 2013, per Wikipedia), spread out over 784 square miles of north woods, the shadowy St. Joe river flowing into the southern end of Lake Couer d'Alene and the Coeur d'Alene reservation.

Latah Co. has four times the population (in 1,077 square miles—the two counties together a bit larger than Rhode Island), and the University of Idaho in Moscow, making it a veritable warm bed of what passes for liberalism in our ruby red state. Half the population of the legislative district is in Moscow; the other half spread into the farms, forest and hills leans right with the rest of the state.

In 2010, when Latah was by itself in District 6, Dr. Dan Schmidt graduated from county coroner to the state senate. After redistricting, he carried his new district by narrow margins in 2012 (51%) and 2014 (52.3%). (Idaho's 35 state senators enjoy the same 2 year terms as the 70 House members.) In 2016, the Republican wave tipped the race to Dan Foreman from just over the hill in tiny Viola, by 336 votes, 1.5% of the 22,214 total. Turnout was a remarkable 87%, up from 70% in the 2012 presidential election year. Foreman credited "a lot of door-to-door campaigning" in Moscow, along with the rural, conservative base ready to answer the "fed up with business as usual" call. From his Election Eve campaign page on Facebook, Foreman promised to

"STAND UP FOR IDAHO and protect your CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS," to "defend the rights of the unborn, protect the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners, advocate for smaller, more efficient state government, work for improved public schools while supporting home-schooling, foster agriculture and logging and stand on guard for IDAHO'S STATE RIGHTS. And he will say "NO" to any new or increased taxes."

Tell us more about improving public schools, Dan. Education was fourth of the seven policies and issues he highlighted on his campaign website. This:

"My answer is this: I can’t fix the schools. As a legislator I can write law that, let’s face it, deals to a large degree with how much money the schools receive. And giving more money to the schools is not, repeat NOT, going to fix the education issues with which we are faced. The troubles facing us with respect to education are multi-faceted and complex."

Following a few notions about that complexity, his opening bid for what to do about our woe:

"We must free ourselves from the undue influence and control of the U.S. Department of Education [so that we can] local grassroots management and control of our children’s education in Idaho."

As if... oh well, whatever. It's a fundamental tenet of Republicans here and everywhere: MORE MONEY WILL NOT FIX ANY PROBLEMS. And, since everyone likes to pay less in taxes, ipso facto, presto digitato, LESS MONEY FOR EVERYTHING IS THE WAY FORWARD. Boil down all that complexity to something really, really simple.

Speaking of simplicity, here's how we can fix climate change in one swell foop: delete it from our science curriculum. In an homage to "creation science," Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell argued in favor by noting that the current standards did not teach “both sides of the debate.” Our Superintendent of Public Instruction knows how to get along. She said said rewritten language could refer to either “the rise or the fall” of global temperatures.

Whichever it might be. Temperature rising, or falling. Glaciers disappearing, the sea level rising, record high temperatures year after year after year or a new ice age just around the corner. You just never know.

Anyway, Sen. Foreman has worked up a boilerplate response to people who contact him about the state's science standards, what he offers as his "honest reply," and a model of a modern major general of the War on Facts, ignorance his sword, fakery his buckler. His rant, in full:

"The global warming theory is nonsense. The vast majority of credible scientists say so. In fact, there is mounting evidence the planet is starting to cool. Remember the big email scandal involving the top scientific experts in Europe supporting the global warming initiative. Do you remember the discovered and well publicized emails from these scientists in which they admitted global warming was a hoax – part of an agenda to grow government in the name of saving the almighty environment? Global warming ranks right up there with Al Gore’s phony ozone scare. I hope the legislature enacts legislation to eliminate this ridiculous nonsense about global warming and climate change from all our textbooks. The left-wing has created a new religion, and it’s called ‘the environment.’ I wish they would pay more attention to real religion. Maybe we could make real progress in this country. People need to wake up and rediscover critical thinking once again. Too many people are falling victim to these scams foisted on us all by liberal zealots with ulterior motives. In closing, Idaho is a conservative state, and therefore has a conservative legislature. You should not be surprised we will not support liberal constructs and obsessions. Our legislature does a great job of separating the wheat from the chaff. Global warming is chaff."

Is there any possible response to this dirt-poor clod of cognitive dissonance and disinformation? It's beyond fakery and denial. I know you are but what am I? You say 'the vast majority of credible scientists say' X but I say they say Y, so there! Go ahead, prove me wrong! You can't, can you? I told you so!

Never mind that the vast majority of climate scientists have recognized the fact of climate change for two decades. Viral ignorance in our political system says no, it isn't happening.

It doesn't have to be this way. George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III propose a conservative answer to climate change, minus the raving lunacy and denial. But too many in their own party can't comprehend the fundamentally conservative principle of the proposal. "The biggest obstacle to a Republican-led climate policy are Congressional Republicans."

7.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let me interest you in a little regulatory shell game Permalink to this item

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (never mind the title, the Wikipedia entry notes "this article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably) was signed into law in July, 2010, as a response to the crisis that drove the world's financial system to the brink of ruin a decade ago. Section 4 of the crowd-sourced description, "provisions" includes a table of contents into the 15 Titles that the Act comprises, so there's that. We're here to talk about Title IX, Subtitle A today.

You might wonder, "why today?" after all these years. Through an abundance of caution (in the most charitable interpretation) and resistance, one of the key provisions, requiring broker-dealers not to swindle their clients by way of fake advice, was delayed in its functional implementation until April 10, 2017.

In brief, comfortably navigable terms, there is a great deal of money to be made in fake advice, and the people who have been offering it don't want to lose that business or have it impeded in any way.

If you hired a lawyer, and found out that your lawyer was actually working for someone else's benefit, or just to line his own pockets, you'd be justifiably angry. A lawyer is supposed to be your advocate, working for you, and earning whatever you pay him. Similarly for a doctor; if you found out your doctor was really focused on fundraising for the hospital, or if he prescribed an expensive, name-brand medication that could have been a cheaper generic, or was actually harmful because he was getting a bonus from the pharmaceutical company, that would be totally outrageous.

Those professionals have a duty to put your interest ahead of their own when they give you advice. That fiduciary duty does not, currently, exist by default in the world of finance. There are plenty of legally required disclosures for various kinds of investments, but investment advisors don't generally have to put their clients first. They can tout and sell commission-based products that reliably boost their own accounts while quite possibly emptying yours.

In an administration that features lots of billionaires, and Goldman-Sachs (Steven Mnuchin, nominee for Secretary of the Treasury at the head of the pack), it isn't terribly surprising that the interests of finance remain first and foremost, and that blocking the Fiduciary Rule from finally taking effect would be at the top of the agenda, but with all the populist palaver about the "working man" who's been taken advantage of for too long, it's greater chutzpah than I thought possible.

This is so obviously a ruse for swindlers to maintain their business as usual, it is shockingly awful to see the priority it's been given.

Today, a report that the presidential memorandum confused the matter further, leaving "brokerage firms and lobbyists unsure whether a controversial rule governing retirement advice will ever be put in place." (The confusion is of the form "we thought this would be gutted, but maybe it will still go into effect?!)

Financial writer Michael Kitces was way ahead of the rest of on this. Three months ago, a couple days after the election, he wrote that the new president would more likely defang the rule than repeal it, because even though the regulation isn't to be enforced until this April, it became official last April...

"And the President doesn’t have the power to just [immediately] enact a massive change to an existing regulation. Remember, it took President Obama’s Department of Labor nearly 6 years just to get the prior fiduciary rule changed to what it is now becoming! If President Trump tried to halt it immediately, the fiduciary advocates would have their own opportunity to sue the Department of Labor, and would likely be successful!"

So it appears the president's legal team might have caught up with Kitces and realized that the grinding wheels of rule implementation can't be reset on a simple whim.

But the defanging could be as easy as slow-playing enforcement, after this slow-playing of enactment.

The first thing I noticed about the February 3, 2017 Presidential Memorandum yesterday, and persisting this morning, is that the first paragraph is mistyped, lacking at least the period at the end, but leaving us to wonder if there was more that got dropped in front of the missing punctuation. The second thing is that the not-quite-right first paragraph was repeated as the second paragraph.

Mistakes happen, but sitting there over the weekend and Monday, no one noticed and fixed it?

Then the text itself, supposedly in the voice of Dear Leader looking to help "empower Americans" for good things financial, and stumbling to the third/second paragraph that also seems a bit fragmented.

Term "Fiduciary"; Conflict of Interest Rule Retirement Investment Advice, 81 Fed. Reg. 20946 (April 8, 2016) (Fiduciary Duty Rule or Rule), may significantly alter the manner in which Americans can receive financial advice, and may not be consistent with the policies of my Administration.

Yes, indeed, the Fiduciary Rule is precisely intended to "significantly alter the manner in which Americans can receive financial advice."

One more review of the rule is commanded, with due consideration for Americans' "access" to offerings and advice (without mention of whether the access is to good, bad, or fraudulent advice), and

(ii) Whether the anticipated applicability of the Fiduciary Duty Rule has resulted in dislocations or disruptions within the retirement services industry that may adversely affect investors or retirees; and

(iii) Whether the Fiduciary Duty Rule is likely to cause an increase in litigation, and an increase in the prices that investors and retirees must pay to gain access to retirement services.

There definitely will be "dislocations or disruptions" in the industry if advisers have to stop giving self-serving advice and instead take on fiduciary responsibility. And given the responsibility, yes, those who don't fulfill it will be exposed to an increase in litigation. Investors might have to pay for good advice, and not have the opportunity to get free "advice" that costs them more in the end.

The end of Reuters report on The Globe and Mail hints at one form of "decreased access" for consumers:

"Three of the biggest U.S. brokerages, Bank of America Corp’s Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo Advisors, said Friday’s memo will not change compliance plans the firms already have in place. Of those, Bank of America intends to adopt the most aggressive changes with its plans to scrap selling brokerage IRA accounts starting in April."

If BofA can't see its way clear to acting in clients' best interests, good riddance. We've had a brokerage IRA account for almost as long as we've had IRAs, which goes back a handful of booms and busts, but one for which none of the big U.S. brokerages (or Fidelity, where we've been long-time customers) gives us any advice, pro or con. If you do want advice, there is an alphabet soup of types of advisors, and as uncomfortable as it may be to navigate the swamp, you'd better understand some of what's what. The Fiduciary Rule—if it ever actually takes force, and is enforced—will not be a panacea.

Update: I missed Kitces' more recent piece on the subject the first time around, Feb. 4, after the E.O. came out: Fiduciary Rule NOT yet delayed by Trump after all: "[T]he final version of the Memorandum that President Trump signed did not actually include a provision to delay the fiduciary rule after all, despite wide media reporting to the contrary! Instead, the Secretary of Labor was merely directed to conduct a new 'economic and legal analysis'..."

6.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Waiting for the bus Permalink to this item

Summary in the headline: Boise’s population booms, but people aren’t getting on the bus. Once upon a time in the 1990s, a 56% increase in ridership over three years prompted an award for Boise's transit, "an outstanding transit system with 50 or fewer buses." Twenty years later, ridership is off 7% from the 1995 peak, even as the local population has increased by more than a third.

Numbers in the Idaho Statesman story

The sidebar comparing per capita bus trips in 15 western cities citing FiveThirtyEight data shows Boise at the bottom: 4.1 for the year 2012, less than a tenth of the highest city, Eugene, Oregon, "both midsize university towns with lots of outdoor recreation." Eugene has 70% of the Boise area's population, and eight times as many passenger trips. 11.6 million versus just under 1.5 million. That's 4.2 bus trips per capita in Boise, versus 47 in Eugene.

Budget/trip is $6.53 for Boise's Valley Ride, and $4.07 for Eugene's Lane Transit District, the latter getting two thirds of its funding from the state's payroll tax dedicated to transit, and the former getting no funding from Idaho.

Does it make sense to have zero support from the state? (Is there any chance of convincing Idaho's legislature otherwise?)

Can we figure out how to trim some of the 60% higher cost in Boise's system compared to Eugene's?

Can we quantify the benefits of having a transit system and make informed decisions about the public subsidy?

Lights out Permalink to this item

Don't remember which particular outrage it was, maybe one of the lesser things, but maybe not, somebody not on my side of the spectrum commenting on a Facebook thread complained that we all were "like a bunch of yipping chihuahuas" about every little thing. I did not bark back, but took it under advisement. Back in the campaign, I started a private collection of links and quotes and bloggy remarks to save me the trouble of having to write obsessively about you-know-who.

But what a subject! Even if it gets a little yippy from time to time, how can we not be a witness to this moment in history? Whether it's in the daily Orwellian tweet storm from the President of the United States, the parade of executive orders and the Easter eggs they contain, of the remarkable image of John Yoo's NYT op-ed complaint that we are seeing executive power run amok.

This is so not normal.

Glenn Thrush's and Maggie Haberman's reporting for the NYT, on Trump and his small staff rethinking tactics after the early stumbles ("based on interviews with dozens of government officials, congressional aides, former staff members and other observers of the new administration"), opened with the comedic scene of "aides confer[ing] in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room." A friend commented "Thanks again Obama. You didn't show Trump how to work the lights. Now he has to fumble in the dark. Kind of a metaphor really."

Who knows how many of the sources willing to blab to the Times with the promise of anonymity were having fun, or salting disinformation, but this:

"[F]or the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban."

Sounds likely true enough (and is risible enough to have been picked up by other media, including the one that Trump might see, Fox News). I read the six page Executive Order for the travel ban, and am reasonably confident that the President's reading comprehension and attention span (at least) do not extend that far, and neither of us followed the ten jumps into U.S. Code. Executives have detail people for that sort of thing.

When you find it necessary to say you "call your own shots", you probably don't.

— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) February 6, 2017

The Jan. 28 memorandum (not an E.O.) to revamp the organization of the NSC and the Homeland Security Council is also written in a language utterly foreign to Donald J. Trump, regarding things he has never been conversant about, including management at a level of complexity he has never experienced. He has never had to parse a meeting invitation list such as this. Starting with

Regular attendees:

President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Homeland Security, National Security Advisor, Homeland Security Advisor, Representative to the United Nations.

Further down, it says "The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall also attend NSC meetings." Before that, it says that for international economic issues on the agenda, add the Secretary of Commerce, United States Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

Here's the open invite that Bannon (et al.) wrote for himself (et al.):

"The Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the Counsel to the President, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited as attendees to any NSC meeting."

The Principals Committee, the more important subset (?), has three paragraphs of narrative to wade through to determine who's always in, who's always welcome, and who's provisionally in.

Regular attendees:

Shall attend all meetings:

When international economic issues are on the agenda, also "regular"

"Where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed"

(Isn't National Security always in their purview?)

May attend all meetings:

May attend "as appropriate":

And so on, through mind-numbing title soup of the Deputies Committee, and the Policy Coordination Committees. This level of bureaucratic detail—just to determine who goes to meetings!—is not a realm that Trump has ever visited.

5.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Faith-based governance Permalink to this item

In this week's sit-down between Mike Pence and PBS Newshour's Judy Woodruff, I was struck by how little substance the Vice President offered, and how many times he offered his "belief" that the new adminstration was doing the right thing as if it were an answer to the questions.

"We believe that he’ll get that same level of consideration that the nominees in the first term for President Clinton received, the nominees for President Obama received in their first term."

No, not Merrick Garland, silly.

But I do believe...
I do believe...
I believe it is...
And we really do believe...
I truly do believe...
And I believe... a way that I believe is a great source of comfort and confidence for the American people...
We really believe...

Pence tells us that we've seen in these early days that "President Trump is a man of his word." Which word was he referring to, I wonder. So-called? Ridiculous? Very bad and dangerous? Terrible? Bad intention? FAKE NEWS? Death & destruction? Big trouble! "Evil"? "A really bad job? Sad!

So many words, so little self-control, but you really believe. Really?

Given how unlikely it seems that Donald Trump can serve a full term without being impeached and convicted, Mike Pence could well be our next president, and will be biding his time and opportunity. While that's going on, Jeremy Scahill's piece from a week after the election is worth another look. The incomprehensibility of "a candidate who ran on a platform of open bigotry, threats against immigrants and Muslims, and blatant misogyny" had not progressed past denial as we tried to absorb one surreal announcement after another. Fake news impresario Steve Bannon as "chief White House strategist"?! And now Bannon has been bumped up to the National Security Council, maybe. The question of a confirmation hearing is a drag; the first appointment dodged that neatly, but this second one may not. Mike Pence seemed like the steady adult in a group that generally lacked such supervision.

So let's meet Mike Pence, the most powerful Christian supremacist in U.S. history, and the first warrior popping out of the "Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy." Among his remarkable connections are those to the family of Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and now soldier of fortune working with the Chinese government, and his sister, Betsy DeVos. How delicious for Pence that he could cast a first-ever tie-breaking confirmation vote in the Senate for his reliable benefactor to become Secretary of Education. (He might say that despite her near-total lack of aptitude, he really believes she'll do a great job.)

"The Prince and DeVos families gave the seed money for what came to be known as the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1994 on a far-right platform known as the Contract with America. The Prince and DeVos clans also invested heavily in a scheme developed by Dobson to engage in back-door lobbying activities by forming “prayer warrior” networks of people who would call politicians to advocate for Dobson’s religious and political agenda. Instead of lobbying, which the organization would have been prohibited from doing because of its tax and legal status, they would claim they were “praying” for particular policies.

"The Princes consistently poured money into criminalizing abortion, privatizing education, blocking gay rights, and other right-wing causes centered around their interpretation of Christianity. ..."

For his part, Trump's words now include a promise to "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution." You know, the 60-year-old burden that keeps tax-exempt churches from being political organizations? And that's hardly enforced? Not that the president has the authority to change laws passed by Congress, but maybe Mike Pence can help, what with all his tight connections on the hill.

4.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The 20% solution Permalink to this item

There's almost nothing to like about the idea of Betsy DeVos being Secretary of Education, unless you're of the opinion that inherited billions and political donations are a sign of comptence. The track record of her ideas about education in Michigan is beyond abysmal.

And then there's the whopper she passed along to a question from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) for her confirmation hearing, copying wrong answers from the K12 Inc. playbook, touting its "virtual" success in high school graduation rates. Benjamin Herold reports for Education Week that DeVos used cherry-picked graduation rates for cyber charter schools. (If you ignore students who drop out, it really helps your numbers.)

A year ago, the Idaho Virtual Academy made news for having a 20 percent graduation rate. It was good news in a way: at least we'd figured out where a big part of the problem was! Idaho was estimated as tied for 41st nationally, and identifying the problem is the first step in solving it.

But our would-be Secretary of Education didn't get the memo, and was still using K12's made-up "90 to 100%" numbers when the latest "publicly reported figure for state accountability purposes" are 33% in Idaho, 40% in Oklahoma, 42% in Utah, 53% in Ohio, and good on Nevada for something that's not F or below, 67%. As NPR's report summarized:

"DeVos built an argument for virtual charter schools on language apparently taken — without citation — from a report written by a for-profit company with a huge stake in the industry. In the process, DeVos either knowingly or unwittingly mischaracterized the official graduation rates of virtual schools, making them look more successful than they are and making online learning, in general, look like a reliable pathway to student success when research suggests it is anything but."

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) spells out why she'll be voting no (along with at least two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) next week:

"Throughout her confirmation process, Ms. DeVos has demonstrated a complete lack of experience in, knowledge of and support for public education. Instead, it is clear that she would pursue policies that would undermine public schools, in my home state of New Hampshire and across our nation.

I called the offices of Idaho's two Republicans in the Senate, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch on Friday, urging their vote NO. This is more fuel for the firing of one of Trump's very worst picks for his Cabinet. We'll see if they give a fig about education. If they and the other 48 Republicans say yes, Mike Pence could shoe DeVos in with his tiebreak. ONE PRINCIPLED VOTE could make a big difference.

Our nation of immigrants Permalink to this item

It was a New World and a new Nation, after all, so no surprise that none of the founding fathers was speaking up for the poorly-armed native populations who were being pushed out of the way in the act of creation. My people did not come over on the Mayflower, but were in one of the many later waves of immigration, mid-1800s, between Manifest Destiny and xenophobia manifest, and whatever stories there might have been about prejudice against newcomers, none came down to me in the later years of the 20th century. (We have cousins who were on the other side of WWII, and stories that might have been told, but generally were not. And in any event, and at least up to last month, Germany has become one of our staunchest allies.)

Inflatable Orange Bird parody

Our new "America First" proponent-in-chief is determined to reinvigorate our borders, and deprecate the promise of opportunity, now that he's all set in the raggedy riches to riches success story he can't get enough of. Another Don, famous for transcribing the wit and wisdom of a cockroach and a cat around the time Trump's founding father washed up on the American shore, Don Marquis, pithily suggested that "When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'"

Saturday morning headlines, spinning around the Sun King now at the center of our political universe:

You don't need the New York Times reporting for "Trump Attacks"; you can get that straight from the horse's stubby fingers on his sur-@realDonaldTrump twitter feed, with a Mar-a-Lago-launched barrage over breakfast, starting with the Big Scare:

When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot , come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security - big trouble!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

rolling through his abiding contempt for the judicial branch and its role under our Consitution,

The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

(an earlier White House statement had used the word "outrageous" before decorously removing the adjective), past the obligatory daily attack on the news,

After being forced to apologize for its bad and inaccurate coverage of me after winning the election, the FAKE NEWS @nytimes is still lost!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

and winding up with the ALL CAPS/no cattle slogan he rode to victory,


— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017

On Friday, reporters were still trying to find out where in the spectrum of dictatorial fiat and bureaucratic bungling the immigration ban fell, from DHS' lowball 721 denied boarding, to the 100,000 claimed in a lawsuit. The State Department said "roughly 60,000 individuals' visas were provisionally revoked." Roughly.

New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, Minnesota and Washington state all have sued the federal government. The New York state attorney general, described the order signed a week ago as "unconstitutional, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American." From the NYT team's reporting:

"Courts around the country have halted aspects of Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on travel from the seven countries, but the Seattle ruling was the most far-reaching to date.

"Airlines that had been stopping travelers from boarding planes to the United States were told by the government in a conference call Friday night to begin allowing them to fly...

"The federal government was “arguing that we have to protect the U.S. from individuals from these countries, and there’s no support for that,” said the judge, James Robart of Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, an appointee of President George W. Bush, in a decision delivered from the bench."

The Trump Attacks Judge story has an arresting headline. The acting President of the United States attacks a federal judge, what? That tweet up there stupidly deprecated Federal District Judge James Robart as "so-called," on its way to attacking the judge's opinion.

Since the New York Times does at least get our president's attention, perhaps someone can dog-ear last Sunday's Week in Review and Nicholas Kristof's invitation to meet his family, a powerful story just one generation from totalitarianism. The online version has a beautiful video of "a refugee's journey and a message of thanks," along with the note that Trump's "own family suffered from anti-German sentiment and pretended to be Swedish." There's also a link to Kirk W Johnson's account of one of the tens of thousands on the wrong end of the Bannon-Trump slapdash order, an Iraqi friend who interpreted for the 82nd Airborne for $5 a day. Johnson's opinion of the E.O.:

"[W]hoever wrote it doesn't even seem to have read the wiki page on the U.S. refugee admission program. I could point out the multi-year process, involving numerous security interviews, background checks, name checks against some two dozen separate databases run by our own intelligence agencies, but this is not the product of a White House interested in confronting the world as you and I experience it.

"His executive order reads as though 9/11 happened yesterday, that 9/11 was carried out by refugees (it wasn't), and as though the exhaustive screening measures that were put in place in the fifteen years since don't exist. Some 800,000 refugees have come in since then, and none have been charged with domestic terror attacks.

"This is not a policy. It's a fever dream, conjured up to make Americans scared of refugees. Many innocent people are going to be left behind or die in the process."

And Johnson's opinion of the man who signed it:

"I know shame has no purchase on this President. I know that pointing out hypocrisy only seems to strengthen his resolve. So what can we say about an order like this, from a man who never served when he country called upon him (a "temporary" bone spur on his foot—he later couldn't remember which one—kept him from Vietnam)? What do we say about a suspension of the refugee program by the grandson of a refugee (Friedrich Trump, who was himself stripped of Bavarian citizenship for shirking mandatory military service, arriving with his pregnant wife in New York harbor in 1905)?"

3.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Freedom of choice! Permalink to this item

If you really bought into that "drain the swamp" slogan that somebody handed Donald Trump on the campaign, and that he started repeating after it got big cheers, we have a wide assortment of good quality bridges available for incredibly low prices.

You may already be a winner!

If you started to wonder when you saw how many billionaires and bankers were finding their way into Trump's cabinet, wonder no longer. Dodd-Frank's consumer protection wasn't all it could have been, but it's what came out the end of the sausage maker during the Obama years, and it's now on the chopping block. Among the elements deemed a bridge too far is the so-called Fiduciary Rule. It's a dead-simple idea: financial professionals would be required to act in their clients' best interest when giving them advice about their retirement accounts, as opposed to, say, self-dealing, selling products with big commissions, and so on.

The industry fought like hell to keep it from being included in Dodd-Frank, pushed out the implementation (it was supposed to start on April 10), and now looks to have successfully dodged the bullet of enforced responsibility.

Beyond hiding behind a word that's unfamiliar to most, what is the argument against the rule? Damned if I know. Damned if Ron Lieber of the NYT knows. "People might sue us!" was one try. "Freedom of choice" was another, as in, like, you should be able to order unhealthy food for dinner if you want. Or pay your financial advisor to rob you blind. Lieber does offer some answers to the question So how should consumers respond? With the links from the orginal:

"First, check the background of anyone who wants to do business with you. Look up their name on the internet and read past the first page of results, way past. Ask where you can find their disciplinary records. Check them yourself on Finra’s BrokerCheck website.

"Then, have a conversation. Demand that they take a fiduciary pledge to act in your best interest, like the one we’ve already written for you on our website. Then, ask your investment professional how compensation works. How does money flow from you to them? Is the firm paying them anything extra in exchange for pushing you toward certain investments? What about the company that created the fund or product?

O wad some Power the giftie gie us Permalink to this item

Cover of Der Spiegel, dated tomorrow, art from a Cuban refugee who came to the U.S. in 1980. “I don't want to live in a dictatorship,” Rodriguez said. “If I wanted to live in a dictatorship, I'd live in Cuba, where it's much warmer.”

Der neue SPIEGEL. Ab jetzt zum Download und ab morgen im Laden erhältlich:

— DER SPIEGEL (@DerSPIEGEL) February 3, 2017

Turns out you can make this stuff up Permalink to this item

The BBC has a long history of serious reporting, so good on them for not exactly pointing and laughing in their meta-fake news coverage of Kellyanne's latest splash. Their domestic coverage is more detailed, and covers the story with the headline, Did Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway just invent a massacre? She later downgraded the 2011 incident which "didn't get covered," much, to just "terrorists," who were found guilty and sent to jail back in the day.

It's not like we don't have plenty of mayhem to choose from in the daily news. The terrorist attack up in Quebec City that just happened Sunday night, for example. Not much peeping or tweeting about that out of the Trump flaks, even though, yes, Muslims were involved. As victims. Of a French Canadian university student with far-right, nationalist views and a supporter of the French rightist party led by Marine Le Pen. (Which you might not know if you're a regular Fox News viewer.)

Never mind that, a guy with a machete! At the Louvre! Said Allahu Akhbar! (Dispatched by French soldiers who brought their guns to the knife fight.)

While you cower in fear in your bunker, you can enjoy the tweetstream under #BowlingGreenMassacre for today's lighter side of terror.

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Down the rabbit hole Permalink to this item

Never mind whether it was the right thing to do, tactically, or morally, how are the polls for Trump's E.O. on immigration? Let's just say those people who loved to say that Obama was the most divisive president ever are going to have to recalibrate, or (ok, this is more likely) just pretend that everything is terrific and tweety.

Mara Liasson reports that Democrats were "uniformly appalled" and the Republicans "were either supportive or confined their criticism to the sloppy, confusing way the order was developed and implemented." Meanwhile, more than 900 State Department employees signed a dissent cable. The "Sensitive but Unclassified" memo has been posted on DocumentCloud, and summarizes the estimate of almost a thousand consular professionals, foreign service officers and members of the civil service that the order "will not achieve its aim of making our country safer," even as it "runs counter to core American values." It will more likely "sour relations with these six countries"—who we actually could use as allies in the GWOT—"as well as much of the Muslim world, which sees the ban as religously-motivated."

"It will increase anti-American sentiment," and OMG, the new adminstration is just getting started on that program. There's the "immediate and clear humanitarian impact." Zero impact on reducing terror, certain impact on what good will America has left in the world.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer says "They should either get with the program, or they can go," the default response of a know-nothing adminstration with zero interest in dissenting views from professionals with experience. The chapter on Groupthink is going to be rewritten.

Fostering good will is not high on the Trump-Pence to-do list, and the list of allies he's willing to throw off the bus just keeps growing. There goes Australia with "the worst call by far" in Trump's humble opinion. Apparently P.M. Malcolm Turnbull wasn't effusive enough about the size of the electoral college win? You can just imagine the aides down under, wide-eyed and stage whispering don't mention that he lost the popular vote by 3 million! Turnbull's putting a brave face on it, because he really wants to get rid of the refugee problem parked in the Pacific on Nauru and Manus.

And apparently our Tweeter-in-chief suggested to Mexico's president that he might be invading? Just a negotiating tactic to get Mexico to pay for the wall.

The so-called "listening session" (he talks, we all listen) to kick off Black History Month beggars derision. He brought along all three of the black people he's included in his outer circle, and echoed puppeteer Steve Bannon's quip that "a lot of the media is actually the opposition party," not counting of course those who are "very nice" to him, like Fox News.

The transcript of his remarks is beyond pathetic, and into a realm I have no words to describe.

When he says "Wherever Fox is, thank you," do they beam with pride, or shudder to imagine how fully co-opted their enterprise has become? Check the ratings, I guess, and the ad revenue. That's all that matters.

P.S. Same transcript, but better headline and the category, "Short Imagined Monologues," posted verbatim, on McSweeney's.

P.P.S. Frederick Douglass Opens Twitter Account from Beyond the Grave to Troll President Trump

Weather report Permalink to this item

Rodents poking their heads above the snow cover around here are not going to see any shadows today, so I guess that means the end is near? The light snow we were expecting overnight didn't materialize, and the winter storm advisory was pushed out, and disappeared for lower elevations. Rain and snow forecast for Friday and the weekend, high temperatures we haven't seen in town for some time: the 40s.

We're hoping January was the cruelest month, already.

Up in the mountains, the "possible" accumulations from today through Sunday range from a little over a foot to more than two, in our neighborhood, and further north (where the forecast for today through Monday is Snow, Snow likely, Snow and Breezy, Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow likely, Snow and Snow). Lots of precious water to save up for the hot, dry summer. We'll see. (Assuming the stormy weather moves the January left-over inversion out of the valley, that is.)

Moving snow with a backhoe

1.Feb.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How Donny fired Sally Permalink to this item

We've been over the basics of the brief moment when the head of the DOJ stood up to the new president, but Chris Cillizza's highlight of the way he did it is worth noting. Slightly better than tweeting out "you're fired!" but not too much. She got a two minute headstart on notification before a press release went out, with the lead that she "has betrayed the Department of Justice." After 27 years there, approximately 27 years more public service than the new president has put in.

Her record speaks for itself, and his... speaks loudly, anyway.

Firebrand relit Permalink to this item

She's baaaaack! Idaho's Rep. Heather Scott is celebrating the Restoration in her latest newsletter, District 1 once again enjoying "full representation," in a manner of speaking. She refers to her 3 week time-out for language unbecoming as a "moratorium" as she wags her finger at the "overreaching authority" of the Speaker of the Idaho House, Scott Bedke. Lord knows she's not talking about herself when "unprofessional manner" enters the conversation. Here's something we can agree on:

"There is room for improvement in communication, mutual respect and leadership inside the Idaho House of Representatives."

Starting with ... everyone else. Cue that vague hint of conspiracy music:

"My many apologies never seemed to be good enough to please Speaker Bedke, so I opted for a public apology weeks ago. When that wasn’t enough, I was assured that one last apology to a small group two days ago would be the final requirement. I believe this situation may have been used as a political distraction from a bigger political issues [sic], but time will tell."

For those who just can't get enough of her persecution complex, there's more. Much more. The Truth at your Fingertips, "The Boise Situation."

Hypocrisy meter exploded Permalink to this item

Pat Toomey's not the only member of the U.S. Senate with selective amnesia. Dear Leader Mitch McConnell (dripping with indignation):

"Apparently there’s yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all."

Ma glory, Mistah McConnell suh, wherevah did that damnable opposition party get that idea?! He thinks this is "something the American people simply will not tolerate." And this shiny gem, for the capper:

"What we hope would be that our Democratic friends treat President Trump's, uh, nominees in the same way as we treated Clinton and Obama." [sic]

What Hunter wrote for the DailyKos:

"The best part of this tape may be the zombie-eyed looks on all the other Republican faces as Mitch McConnell bullshits his way through his explanation for why the first black American president was not going to get any vote on any Supreme Court nominee, period, for the last full year of his presidential term but it would be a goddamn Kentucky-fried disgrace if anyone tried to even slow down the nominations then put forth by the white guy. They don’t care. They know it’s bullshit. Check out Mike Pence back there—he seems to even think it’s funny."

The creatures of the swamp keep diving lower than I thought was possible. Has there ever been a one such as Mitchell McConnell, Jr.?


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007