Monday, October 16, 2017

As Trump Pushes Coal, The Industry Declines

A well-worn conservative mantra says picking winners and losers is anathema. Trump apparently hasn't gotten the memo. Picking coal is picking a loser. What does that make Trump?

Photo ops won't get you back to the future.

Trump promised to bring the coal industry back to Make America Great Again. One, bringing coal back won't do it -- we need a cleaner world, not a dirtier one -- and, two, coal as a fuel may linger, but its days as a source of energy are numbered. And guess who knows it? The coal industry:
In the six months since that announcement at the EPA, companies have withdrawn five of 44 pending lease applications, and at least eight are indefinitely on hold. In a number of cases, companies have explained that their decisions are based on persistently weak market conditions. According to the BLM’s figures as of this past week, only one new lease application has been filed, for a modest extension of a mine in Colorado that primarily feeds a nearby power plant whose fate is uncertain. (Two companies would expand mines in Utah by modifying existing applications.)
In the letters to state BLM offices obtained through FOIA requests, coal companies admitted that the future is not as rosy as they might have hoped or would like to project. Arch Coal, the second-largest supplier in the United States, referred to the “continued downward pressure on the Powder River Basin and subsequent reduced output over the past seven years” in explaining why it was withdrawing a lease application for a major new mine in Wyoming. Rhino Energy, which has operations in Appalachia and the West , said that “current coal market conditions remain depressed” and that it wouldn’t move forward with a lease for a proposed 14,000-acre mine in Colorado until that outlook changed. Cloud Peak Energy, with operations confined to the Powder River Basin, asked the government to reconfigure a proposed lease because it was “simply too large for current market conditions.” And Kiewit, a Fortune 500 contractor and mining company based in Omaha, withdrew its applications for two new mines in Wyoming after waiting for years in the hope that market conditions would improve.
Trump is playing his usual game here, which is to craft, with crude bluster, a message loud and clear, that he's going to make America manufacturing great again by going back to a golden past where women were barefoot and pregnant and men had black lung and died at 59. His base might cheer him at rallies for that, but the coal executives in the boardroom have already moved on. Why? They make business decisions, not messages for their base. Their base is their stockholders, who want profits, not proclamations.

Hey, Trump it's time you noticed. The coal industry is declining in two ways. First, as an industry it continues to trend down, and second, it's saying thanks, but no thanks.

Courtney Love Warned about Weinstein in 2005. Nobody Listened?

This video speaks volumes that apparently nobody read.

Sarah Polley's essay on the costs Hollywood pays for its Harvey Weinsteins -- and her own brave story on an encounter with him -- is a must-read. From Anita Hill to the latest atrocity is a continuum that must be eradicated. How long will it take? Society must decide. To say that all women must be brave reporters of their own encounters is a tall order, especially if society isn't ready to listen, accept, and act. Otherwise, it's just lambs to the slaughter of damaged careers because we're all cowards waiting for the next awards show.

And it ain't just Hollywood.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Freakish Parallels: Harvey Weinstein, Free Markets, and Income Inequality

No, don't blame Harvey Weinstein on Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, Lou Dobbs and Larry Kudlow, but "free markets are always best" and "government shouldn't pick winners and losers" should be reviewed through the lens of abuse of power and consensual -- and non-consensual -- transactions.

Abuse of power transcends race, ideology, but, tellingly, not gender.

It would be a stretch to suggest that tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of business have anything in common with abuse of women by men in power, or is it? What we take for granted in our free-market-centric capitalist society is that picking winners and losers through regulation is anathema. How about Donald Trump's "If you're a star, they let you do anything" declaration?

It's hard to see the difference between what the rich get away with in a world fraught with income inequality, where the middle and working classes demean themselves for a scant piece of the pie, and the world of male dominance over objectified women. Winners and losers indeed.

I've spent a lifetime feeling that we in the West were always slogging away, two steps forward, one step back, but inevitably moving towards a better world. The bizarre ascendance of Donald Trump -- where a crude, narcissistic prick brutishly rose to the top of the pack -- has crushed any notion of where the arc of justice ends. If, however, it bends toward justice, it certainly won't be apparent in my lifetime.

Reading an op-ed in the Washington Post of how fundamentally endless male sexual abuse of women has been throughout time literally rips at the liberal heart. May I add that Harvey Weinstein's ostensibly liberal ideology is a cudgel conservatives grasp to cloak their own near-criminal bashing of egalitarian longings, but it's only a feint: Finding a pony while digging through Hollywood trash doesn't justify the economic brutality of free markets unrestrained.

Money and power, sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, and endless exploitation of the huddled masses. Where does it end? Not where we thought it did, according to Irin Carmon in her eye-opening, heart-rending WaPo op-ed:
These days, though, you hear less of the term “sex positive,” bandied about proudly into the new millennium. It now implicitly requires a follow-up: Sex on whose terms? Positive for whom? Listening to the accounts of heterosexual women working and dating today, the older feminist critiques of male power and the sexual revolution seem as relevant as ever. In a 1982 essay, “Toward a Feminist Sexual Revolution ,” feminist critic Ellen Willis observed that the supposed sexual liberation movement of Hugh Hefner was actually a “sexual libertarian movement,” and that “liberation involves not only the abolition of restrictions but the positive presence of social and psychological conditions that foster satisfying sexual relations.” Thirty-five years later, the British feminist Laurie Penney wrote, in an essay that predated the Weinstein revelations, “Today’s sexual freedom is rather like today’s market freedom, in that what it practically entails is freedom for people with power to dictate terms and freedom for everyone else to shut up and smile.” Less had changed than advocates once hoped, or perhaps than young women once assumed.
Less has changed indeed. Currently, American heads are turning, in fact twisting to the breaking point, as we attempt to follow how Donald Trump rampages through decades of progress the West has struggled to make. It's as if he's grabbing an entire culture by the pussy. It's a disgustingly crude but apt metaphor for what his brand of dominance demonstrates. Power allows crude defiling on so many levels. What's the difference between a starlet giving it up on a couch and a struggling McDonald's worker on minimum wage limping through life without a fixed working schedule and a shrinking amount of food stamps while Paul Ryan decries welfare, picking winners and losers, and hammocks of complacency?

Not much difference: Someone is getting screwed.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Trump's Let's-Make-a-Deal Gambits Are a Recipe for Catastrophe -- and Losing

"If I destroy it, they will deal" is Donald Trump's idea of the art of politics. Because of his erratic, wanton behavior, no one wants to deal. Why? You can't trust him to be honest, fair, or even aware of what he's doing.

With Trump, there's nothing behind the doors except baloney.

All of Donald Trump's early dealing has led to an utter failure of an administration, he knows it, and he's bursting with rage. Now, to assert himself, he's lashing out, destroying the establishment, most of what Obama accomplished, and denigrating both allies and enemies.Why? He thinks he'll make people "deal" and then he'll get the credit he deserves. The gambit is brain-dead, and the Republican Party knows it.
  1. He wants to decertify the Iran deal, because of non-compliance, to force our European allies and Iran to the table. (Psst, Iran is complying with the deal.) Our allies won't budge, driving a wedge between the U.S. and the world. He will toss the deal to a GOP-dominated Congress, who'll likely support the deal. Winner? Not Trump, but the U.S. may squeak by, while our allies again think WTF? If Congress agrees with Trump's decertification and reinstitutes sanctions, Iran bolts from the deal and goes back to building a bomb. Yay, more bombs and now two adversaries spitting in our eye.
  2. Trump is blowing up Obamacare with his incessant executive orders. Result? He and the GOP now own the American healthcare system, which is in danger of falling apart because of the fix Trump has put it in. Result? With a gun to its head, the GOP will likely have less bargaining power with the Dems, leading to an Alexander/Murray bill to save Obamacare that will be far from what the Repubs had hoped for. Expect Trump to call it a win just to be a "winner." And yet, if the GOP leaders don't allow a vote, the GOP establishment will partly own Trump's mess.
  3. On DACA, he's reneged on a deal with "Chuck and Nancy," thus alienating the Dems from dealing with him. What will or can he do? Nothing. He's in a corner and has already hinted that he'll extend DACA when it expires March 5th because, well, no one will deal.
  4. He alternately insults and praises the Puerto Ricans, claiming that the feds can't stay in Puerto Rico "forever." Result? He looks like an asshole who this morning in a tweet said, "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H's. I will always be with them!" See? He insults them with "how bad things were before" and praises them as "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico." Why believe anything he says?
  5. Almost forgot NAFTA. He is "dealing" so hard with Mexico and Canada that he'll likely find no agreement. Result? In a fit of pique he'll ditch the whole deal, which has ramifications for the whole world.
  6. Almost forgot North Korea. He keeps calling Kim Jong Un "Little Rocket Man" (as opposed to "Liddle Bob Corker") and Kim keeps calling his bluff. The Art of the Deal, my ass. (My ass, all our asses.)
No one believes anything he says, unless it's his base. And, when he has to say "never mind!" to all his misdealing, he'll look like a patsy, which will throw him into a rage, which will lead to? Sen. Bob Corker thinks World War III. What if he's right? Holy crap.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mike Pence, Fully Trained as Trump's Puppy, Would Make a Great President!

Mike Pence is reliable as the 51st vote on any tie that might occur as the Republican Party wobbles through its failed support of Trump's "agenda." And he can be counted on to move about the country supporting every knuckledheaded idea Trump tweets puts forth. Presidential timber for sure!

So, how about this angle?  What if I raise my chin and squint? Is that presidential?

If practice makes perfect, Mike Pence isn't honing a presidential look. He's honing a Trump's chump look. But, hey, that's his job! Presidential? Uhhh...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A WaPo Op-Ed Opposing Gun Control and Josh Marshall's Response Perfectly Frame the Debate.

Unsurprisingly, I'm impressed with Josh's response. Seldom have I heard such a compelling argument made so clear, unmuddying a debate that relies on muddy waters. Good work.

I had already read Leah Libresco's piece in the Washington Post, so I knew the background, and I've already written in recent days -- and even hours! -- pieces refuting the "we can never control guns" arguments. But Josh Marshall, as usually, sums things up with near-perfect clarity. In response to Libresco, Josh writes:
The real problem is Libresco’s premise. Does anyone think that closing the gun show loophole or mandating trigger locks will lead to a major reduction in gun fatalities? Nobody seriously thinks this. But it’s also not the way we approach really any other public health, safety or liability question. All sorts of public policy questions and decisions involve incremental reductions of harm or threat. Most regulated chemicals wouldn’t have people dropping dead right and left if not controlled. The numbers are usually relatively small. Even with known carcinogens, it is seldom possible to determine who became sick due to a certain kind of exposure. We just know, or science tells us, that a certain number of people will become sick and die due to exposure. We have safety seals on virtually every over-the-counter medication you can buy to guard against the extremely low possibility that someone could put poison in your aspirin. We have safety regulations on children’s toys to reduce the risk of a tiny number of children who choke or could choke on tiny toy parts. Whether this level of risk aversion is wise or paranoid is an interesting question. But there’s no question that we think about risk and remediation in a radically different way when it comes to firearms.
Yes, exactly. I don't think that any one thing will do it on gun control, though I believe that every little thing will likely do it, and we owe it to our increasingly gun-violent nation to do so. Because, as Marshall makes clear, this mass carnage is relatively new and requires a new approach.
Hardware and the prevalence of guns can’t be separated from culture. The two underpin and catalyze each other. Guns have been embedded in American culture, particularly though not exclusively rural culture, for centuries. But what we might call extreme gun ownership – individuals owning large numbers of often quasi-military firearms – is quite new. The mass casualty shooting is no longer a random freak out by a troubled person: it’s an established American idiom of violence, a way certain people choose to make a statement to the society at large.
Comments on social media, as popular and prevalent as they have become, doesn't quite have the bang for the buck that military-assault weapons taking out ever-increasing numbers of people at an ever-expanding number of mass shootings have. This is new, and our response has to be new and enduring.


Pay No Attention to GOP Willingness to Ban Bump Stocks. It's Their "Get Out of Jail Free" Card. And It Still Might Not Happen.

The Republican openness to consider banning the bump stock -- something unknown to nearly all of us until Vegas -- is a contemptible head feint. Yeah, we'll ban something!! And then leave all other gun "rights" in place, including the "right" to have lots of military rifles with up to 100-round magazines. Horrifying still.

Yes, the bump stock turns this semi-automatic military-style rifle into an
automatic. But without it, this rifle is horrifically lethal and can still be
altered to kill plenty of people. (It's what it was designed to do.)

We're going to hear the litany of reasons why we can never and should never limit guns and their availability, and, yes, it's Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California who's offered the bill to eliminate bump stocks, but she's only attempting to seize the moment in the aftermath of the Las Vegas horror.

But realize that, one, she may not succeed (watch that, folks), and, two, it throws a bone to the gun control people, a bone without any meat on it.

We will still remain a horror in the eyes of civilized nations. We will still be in the thrall of the NRA and its Republican stooges. We will still be left counting the dead and turning the page.