2017 Politics open thread, February 12-18

What has captured your attention this week?

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244 thoughts on “2017 Politics open thread, February 12-18

  1. For me, it is just the fact that the same two themes keep emerging: the Russian ties, as most recently evidenced by the fact that Flynn was talking to the Russians about sanctions before the inauguration, an action that is likely illegal, and the massive conflicts of interest.

    I enjoyed this quote from Maureen Dowd’s column today
    “Institutions designed to check a president’s power and expose his scandals — from the courts to the comics to the press — are all at Defcon 5 except for the Republican Congress, which seems to be deaf.”

    And for our daily dose of conflicts of interest

    Given that the voters who voted for Trump were very concerned about corruption and cronyism in Washington, I find it amusing that they got conned in such a big way.

  2. Upside to Trump presidency: SNL has never been better. Loved the “People’s Court” sketch this week.

  3. Interesting how the CBS article Anon referenced at 4:27 has the 4 categories adding up to 100%, when I don’t fall into any one of them. Am I a superminority?

    I don’t consider myself a supporter or an opponent of Trump, and I’m taking a wait and see attitude to his performance as POTUS.

  4. Finn, it will be interesting to see if greater scrutiny of Trump’s decisions by the media improves their quality. I think we’re not dis-similar politically, and I am hopeful that the power of the press will make Trump a better POTUS. The press covering Obama was less critical of Obama’s policies and errors, so I really can’t tell to what extent Trump is a worse president and to what extent journalists are partisan/liberal in their views and so they identify conservative errors better than liberal ones.

  5. WCE, key difference” Obam released his taxes, so we knew his entanglements. Bush, actually both of ’em, released their taxes. Even supposed-slimy Clinton released his taxes. I just can’t understand how you guys don’t see how different Trump is. The voters deserve to understand his entanglements, just like we did with his presdesesors.

  6. Clinton didn’t release his taxes for the year that he and Hillary did well trading cattle futures, as I recall. I don’t like either of them, but I think HRC is like an iceberg- she’s managed to keep 90% of her dishonesty/maleficence invisible. I consider Trump to be a more known-despicable quantity, and I think because he is so disliked (even among those who voted for him), that he will accomplish much less toward his policy objectives than HRC would have toward hers.

  7. Obama was a community organizer whose tax returns revealed nothing, so of course he released them.
    His academic transcripts, however, are evidently hiding something he would prefer to keep hidden.
    WCE, that is a great comparison of Clinton and Trump.
    The media and the Resistance are doing such a thorough job of highlighting Trump’s past and current sins that they pounced on a computer glitch at the Department of Ed website as evidence of malice. So few worries that he is going to be able secretly to enrich his empire at taxpayer expense. Agree with WCE on the hope that this intense scrutiny produces better decisions, but it also seems to be aggravating Trump derangement syndrome.

  8. I really can’t tell to what extent Trump is a worse president and to what extent journalists are partisan/liberal in their views and so they identify conservative errors better than liberal ones.

    The almost immediate injunction against his executive order does sort of indicate an actual problem, does it not?

  9. “The almost immediate injunction against his executive order does sort of indicate an actual problem, does it not?”

    Lots of problems with implementation, certainly. But none of the rulings went to the merits of the EO, only with the mechanics of injunctive relief. The 9th Circuit opinion was particularly poor. Check out this blog if you want to wade into the weeds. https://lawfareblog.com/how-read-and-how-not-read-todays-9th-circuit-opinion.

    And Flynn should resign, no question. He has become a distraction.

  10. “The almost immediate injunction against his executive order does sort of indicate an actual problem, does it not?”

    I heard many comments that the the court’s decision was something of an overreach, so maybe the problem is more of an activist court.
    http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-vulnerabilities-in-the-ninth-circuits-executive-order-decision

    ” it will be interesting to see if greater scrutiny of Trump’s decisions by the media improves their quality”

    That had been my thinking also.

  11. Perhaps Flynn should have planned his answer better, considering he has a background in intelligence. It turns out the calls were not just monitored, they were recorded and transcribed. Federal officials told the Times that they read the transcript and Flynn did discuss lifting sanctions. Flynn appears to have lied and may have lied to Pence, who repeated it. Now Flynn is backtracking on his version of events, saying he cannot rule out having spoken about sanctions in his talk with the Russian ambassador, according to an aide to Flynn.

    Sure seems like a poor hiring decision.

  12. WCE is comparing the Clintons’ taxes from the late 70s with Trump not releasing his for the years immediately prior to when he ran. Makes sense. (sarcasm intended).

  13. she’s managed to keep 90% of her dishonesty/maleficence invisible.

    Perhaps because it wasn’t there.

  14. she’s managed to keep 90% of her dishonesty/maleficence invisible.

    Do you really think she was able to keep anything hidden? What do you figure was hidden in that 90%? That personally murdered Vince Foster?

  15. Hillary Clinton was so picked apart by talk radio in the 90’s that there was little left to hide.

    Academic records are not pertinent to financial conflicts of interest, which are the problem here. It is the corruption we worry about. And, has Trump released HIS academic records? How about some records from Trump University????

    Press today is reporting that Trump is already considering a shakeup, and that Flynn and Priebus may go.

  16. Press today is reporting that Trump is already considering a shakeup, and that Flynn and Priebus may go.

    I hope he goes with Kushner as his Chief of Staff. They say he needs someone who can stand up to him and I think Kushner is that guy.

  17. I understand that Kellyanne is angling for Priebus’s job.

    That’s not going to happen as the (Republican controlled) House Oversight Committee is asking that an investigation be opened into her very illegal shilling for Ivanka’s fashion line.

  18. Rhett, with no evidence, I’ll guess that what HRC was hiding this time around were deals between her and Wall Street to protect financiers from the higher taxes she proposes for those who weren’t willing to fund her campaign. I never followed the Vince Foster story.

    I think there’s a personal side of HRC that I would really like. If she ever writes an autobiography, I’ll probably read it.

  19. I can’t believe that some of you who worship facts and numbers are willing to just make shit up out of whole cloth.

  20. I’ll guess that what HRC was hiding this time around were deals between her and Wall Street to protect financiers from the higher taxes she proposes for those who weren’t willing to fund her campaign.

    What do you suppose Trump is hiding? Would it have anything to do with Gen. Flynn’s blatantly illegal acts?

  21. And as for Gen. Flynn… I thought he was some big time spook. As such, WTF is up with him being recorded on the phone committing a felony with the Russian ambassador?

  22. Rhett, I suspect Trump is hiding what others have suggested- numerous affairs, possibly paid sex with legal minors in Russia, minimal taxes paid due to business losses and various technical illegal but done by everyone acts of international “diplomacy”. (Remember how Merkel’s cell phone was recorded under Obama?)

  23. (Remember how Merkel’s cell phone was recorded under Obama?)

    Yes, Gen Flynn should have know the we were listening in on the Russian ambassador.

  24. various technical illegal but done by everyone acts of international “diplomacy

    So a senior official being recorded committing a felony with a foreign national is just fine and dandy? But, oh a private e-mail server is just the worst thing ever even if they can’t even press charges.

  25. “So few worries that he is going to be able secretly to enrich his empire at taxpayer expense.”

    He is enriching his empire at taxpayers expense blatantly and openly along with God knows what is secret. How is that not a problem?? Who knows how much his conflicts of interest will cost the country? I have no faith that he puts the good of the country over the good of Trump, Inc.

  26. I can’t believe that some of you who worship facts and numbers are willing to just make shit up out of whole cloth.

    RMS, why can’t you believe it? Making crap up was the entire basis of Trump’s campaign and is now the basis for his presidency. What wouldn’t his supporters do the same thing?

  27. @Cordelia, would you be willing to slap up a fake email address and email me at rockymountainstepmom at outlook dot com? I’d like to ask you some more local water questions.

  28. If Trump is keeping 90% of HIS dishonesty/malfeasance below the water line, I should probably be worried.

  29. If Trump is keeping 90% of HIS dishonesty/malfeasance below the water line, I should probably be worried.

    Surely he is considering the vast quantity of dishonest/malfeasance.

  30. If Trump is keeping 90% of HIS dishonesty/malfeasance below the water line, I should probably be worried.

    What makes you think he isn’t? People generally try to keep that stuff hidden for obvious reasons.

  31. I think the GOP is just waiting for the administration to make a big enough breach to cause a bright line impeachable offense. He is reckless….

  32. I don’t think Trump is competent enough to keep 90% of his dishonesty below the waterline. I think Clinton is.

  33. ” it will be interesting to see if greater scrutiny of Trump’s decisions by the media improves their quality”

    The quality of the decisions, or the quality of the media?

  34. WCE said “I don’t think Trump is competent enough to keep 90% of his dishonesty below the waterline”
    He has been pretty competent at not releasing his tax returns, where likely some of that stuff is buried.
    And if the corruption is visible, as it is in Russia, does that make it somehow better? It isn’t like we can do anything about it. He has declared that conflict of interest doesn’t apply to him.

  35. Vox neglected to mention the likely cause of the Oroville Dam crisis. Malfeasance. When the main spillway was inspected in 2013, the inspectors did not walk the spillway. The area that broke was the same area repaired in 2009. Not performing a complete inspection in 2013 at least borders on criminal negligence, if not going all the way.

    By Wednesday, the main spillway’s gaping hole separated the top and bottom part of the spillway, sending a plume of water into the hillside, causing massive erosion. Officials reduced flows from the main spillway, but inflows into the lake were up to 3 times the outflow. The lake continued to rise. Water started to go over the emergency spillway (not auxiliary as it has been renamed since Saturday). Only two feet of water went over the emergency spillway, only 6-12K cfs, not the 250k is was designed for. And the emergency spillway started to fail.

    The lake only had slightly over 100 percent of capacity, not the 150 percent Vox cited.

    For those interested, the Sacramento Bee at sacbee.com has accurate news. The national press and the San Francisco and LA newspapers are both inaccurate and out of date.

  36. I don’t think Trump is competent enough to keep 90% of his dishonesty below the waterline.

    And yet you voted for him.

  37. Thanks for the further details and suggestion of a good source, Pseudonym. My point in giving the link was only to offer a what where when intro for those of us who had no idea at all of what you all were discussing last week.

  38. This past week has given me some insight on why the flyover country would distrust both the media and the government. For a week, I have watched a disaster unfold, that will likely cost in the billions. Just repairing the main spillway will cost over $200 million. They will need to build an actual emergency spillway instead of calling a ravine an emergency structure, add on another couple hundred mil. This is a huge proportion of the drinking water for L. A. and the Bay Area. Those areas won’t be affected. They will take the water they want from Ag and from the poorer Central Valley communities. There will be immense economic costs. And then there are costs associated with evacuating close to 200,000 people with literally no notice.

    The info out of the dam officials went from “everything is fine” to “imminent failure in less than 60 minutes”, in minutes. They can’t be trusted. The government was in charge of maintenance on the dam and didn’t do it. And the media…..this has been going on for almost a week. Late last week, when it became apparent that things were going really bad, there was no national coverage. George Clooney’ baby and Beyoncé’s twins were lead stories, but an economics and environmental disaster, that’s boring.

    So, how often do disasters like this occur that no one outside of a small area knows about? What else does the media get stunningly wrong? Why should anyone believe the media about Trump? Why should anyone trust the government? So why not elect a flamethrowing maniac if the powerful people are so against him? How could things get worse?

  39. “George Clooney’ baby and Beyoncé’s twins were lead stories, but an economics and environmental disaster, that’s boring.”
    I guarantee you that the Trump voters in Indiana and Kentucky are far more interested in Beyonce than the disaster in California. And that is the problem. It is the “elites” who actually care about economics and environmental disasters.

  40. Mooshi. The elites are partying. The inland people are roaming about looking for a place to lay their heads.

  41. That’s how these things always go – the elites go on with their lives and the poor people get the shaft. Remember after Katrina when Laura Bush commented about how well the masses were doing living in the Astrodome?

  42. Both Clinton and Trump were below my personal “candidate quality” threshold. Oregon was a sure thing for Clinton, so I felt no obligation to vote for her, even though I thought she was the less awful candidate.

  43. WCE,

    Do you hold the EPA to a higher standard than private industry? You seem to bring it up a lot more than the mountain of corporate malfeasance that occurs every year.

  44. Yes, because if EPA isn’t more competent than private industry, they don’t deserve to interpret high cost, difficult-to-interpret regulations that make it harder for private industry to compete internationally.

    To me, the government’s right to regulate comes from my expectation that the government will strive to be competent and impartial. If the EPA/other regulatory bureaucracies were less competent/more biased toward a particular company than that company’s own employees, I would have a harder time philosophically with the EPA’s right to regulate.

  45. Yes, because if EPA isn’t more competent than private industry, they don’t deserve to interpret high cost, difficult-to-interpret regulations that make it harder for private industry to compete internationally.

    How would things work under your preferred regulatory system? Or are we getting back to your preference for Civil Law type systems rather than Common Law.

  46. You also don’t seem to be weighing the totality of EPA malfeasance against the amount of corporate malfeasance that would occur without the EPA.

  47. I am ignorant of the details of water management other than that in my area, which is self contained within MA and run by a MA state agency, although melting snow that feeds us does fall in neighboring states. Is the Oroville Dam under federal management, not state? And how is the EPA involved?

  48. I don’t think the EPA is involved in dams- sorry to convolve two agencies. Most large dams are managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, I think, especially those crossing rivers between two states.

    Rhett, my ideal form of regulation would involve technocrats completing annual cost-risk-benefit analyses who are immune to lobbyists. This is how I would make decisions about healthcare vs. education vs. infrastructure vs. environmental cleanup vs. military funding that involves federal dollars. Yeah, I realize I’m a party of one. (My colleague noted that I am a “pure analytical” in a discussion of whether using a particular adjective to describe a process was “inflammatory”. My opinion is, “This adjective describes an integrated circuit process. The adjective we use to describe the process has no bearing on the product specifications, and is technically very correct.” But I went along with my more communication-focused colleague.)

    I suppose one of the reasons I favor corporations over government is that an incompetent corporation will be out-competed by a better run corporation. An incompetent government bureaucracy (think not just EPA but failure to release analyses of wasteful defense spending by the Pentagon, improper categorization of wait times within the VA, failure to ensure clean water in Flint, MI, failure to set up a competent insurance portal for ACA in Oregon, failure of timely software within FAA limiting thruput at major airports, failure to fund IDEA requirements as specified in law, etc.) will not be out-competed by a better run government bureaucracy because government bureaucracies are natural monopolies.

  49. Western Oregon is getting another 1-3″ of rain and my favorite Facebook comment is “Better us than Oroville.”

  50. This article discusses the highway construction challenges for a nearby stretch of highway through an area that receives 100″ of rain on average each year. The project faced delays because of the challenge of draining that much water, especially when rainfall is especially high for a few days and the ground is already saturated. From the rainfall numbers I’ve seen in northern California this winter (I follow the national weather service out of Medford, Oregon on Facebook), I suspect water management is particularly challenging this year.

    http://www.gazettetimes.com/philomathexpress/local/long-delayed-highway-project-in-final-stages/article_8a218a61-32b2-5d75-af9f-823a7d1b328c.html

  51. “I suppose one of the reasons I favor corporations over government is that an incompetent corporation will be out-competed by a better run corporation. An incompetent government bureaucracy … will not be out-competed by a better run government bureaucracy because government bureaucracies are natural monopolies.”

    This is similar to my way of thinking.

    On the Oroville Dam, I read that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relied on state recommendations to reject upgrading the emergency causeway that is now in danger of failing. This sounds a bit like the Flint water blame game with various government entities trying to deflect responsibility. It does seem that the more local officials would be most likely to understand and be relied upon for these matters, but I’m sure politics is involved at every level.

  52. http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/general-news/20170213/soquel-san-jose-road-closed-indefinitely?nocache=1

    I know this is kind of local to me, but it’s just one example of the road situation in the Santa Cruz area. Many roads are completely washing out, meaning that only one or two main arteries remain open. Hwy 17 (the biggest and most important artery) has been closed off and on for weeks due to mudslides, and people haven’t been able to get to the greater SF Bay Area. It’s actually kind of scary.

  53. “I suppose one of the reasons I favor corporations over government is that an incompetent corporation will be out-competed by a better run corporation.”
    The problem is, corporations often, maybe almost always, get out-competed by another corporation because the other corporation has done things more cheaply. And that can mean- doesn’t take safety precautions, dumps crap into the creeks and waterways, falsifies emission records. Incompetence has a different meaning for a for-profit company, than for a government agency.

  54. Interesting – evidently the DOJ warned the Trump administration a month ago that they knew of Flynn’s contacts with the Russians. Even weirder – the reason they started looking was the fact that Russia didn’t really react to Obama’s sactions. Evidently intelligence analysts thought that was strange enough that they started trying to figure out what was going on
    “Intelligence analysts began to search for clues that could help explain Putin’s move. The search turned up Kislyak’s communications, which the FBI routinely monitors, and the phone call in question with Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general with years of intelligence experience.”

    And I think it is odder still that Flynn would not have realized his phone calls were being monitored. I am not sure I believe it. I think there is more to this story.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-warned-white-house-that-flynn-could-be-vulnerable-to-russian-blackmail-officials-say/2017/02/13/fc5dab88-f228-11e6-8d72-263470bf0401_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_flynnjustice-0811pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.2a55741081ce

  55. I suppose one of the reasons I favor corporations over government is that an incompetent corporation will be out-competed by a better run corporation

    That’s nonsense. A corporation that just dumps its waste is clearly going to be able
    to outcompete one that is responsible and pays to treat it.

  56. It is very possible that in California, people might blame the government for environmental and infrastructure disasters. They are in California, after all, and typically want the government to do more. Since there weren’t a lot of Trump voters in California in any case, I rather doubt that things like the dam disaster were pushing Calfornians into the arms of Trump, as Pseudonyn asserts. Heck, that isn’t even flyover country.

    Now, you look at KY, which is filled with environmental messes. Voters there are not blaming the government. Heck, they want the government not to enforce at all. Why? Because voters in KY would rather have filthy water and black lung disease than lose the few remaining coal mining jobs. They just can’t imagine doing things differently. Did you guys see the reports on the big increases in black lung disease in Appalachia? Evidently, there are two factors at work here – changes in mining practices that kick up way more dust (which is what causes black lung disease) and that fact that miners don’t get screened while they are holding mining jobs because they are afraid their employer will find out and fire them. So now that so many miners are out of work, they are going to finally get screened, leading to this huge surge. The voters in KY know perfectly well that black lung disease has nothing to do with the government, but they will still vote for Trump because they think maybe a few of those mining jobs will be saved.
    http://www.npr.org/2016/12/15/505577680/advanced-black-lung-cases-surge-in-appalachia

  57. The Army Corps of Engineers tends to regulate levees, the Bureau of Reclamation builds and manages federal dams. FERC licenses dams that produce energy. The Oroville Dam is built and run by the California Department of Water Resources. EPA is involved to the extent that EPA is always involved in any project through NEPA. And of, course there are endangered/protected species that live around and in lake oroville.

    This is not an oh my god never seen this much water type of year. It is just an extremely wet year. Water management should not be particularly challenging this year. This much rain is tiresome, but if the system was properly maintained and operated. The only real problem would be the mudslides in the Sierra.

    Mooshi. EPA dumped crap in rivers, see Gold King Mine waste water spill, with no accountability, no one fired or disciplined, no fines, no recompense to injured parties.

  58. My theory on the corporate vs. government efficiency is this;

    Say the actual cof of a project is $X. There’s an assumption there will be some waste if the government does it, say $Y. If a private entity does the project, they will make a profit (otherwise why are they doing it), say $Z. There’s another assumption that Z<Y, which is why it would be cheaper to privatize it.

    However, the corporation has a huge incentive to try to reduce X so they can increase Z. So there is a risk that corners will be cut (such as dumping waste) so they can make more money.

  59. Is the Oroville Dam under federal management, not state?

    No, it’s all under local control. The Sierra Club (you know how those silly environmentalists are always going on about things that aren’t going to happen, Chinese hoaxes, etc.) tried to get the Feds to force CA to make changes. But the locals didn’t want to pay*. And who more than the locals knows what’s best for the locals?

    * Because, In fact WCE’s engineering cost benefit analysis was done and the hydrological and geological report came back that it wasn’t worth it to reinforce the emergency spillway.

  60. I find it odd to note the theory that it’s the Feds fault that they didn’t force local authorities to abide by burdensome environmental regulations, Flint, Orville, etc.

  61. The Oroville Dam is built and run by the California Department of Water Resources

    And the Sierra Club tried to make the locals abide by stricter regulations and the Feds differed to the wisdom of the local population and government after a detailed engineer cost/benefit was done. It’s working exactly like you would want it to work.

  62. Mooshi. EPA dumped crap in rivers, see Gold King Mine waste water spill, with no accountability, no one fired or disciplined, no fines, no recompense to injured parties.

    You keep bringing the same one instance, over and over and over and over – the same one. Do you really think that’s an argument considering how much destruction private industry wreaks on the environment every year? And how much more damage they would do without an EPA watching over them?

  63. People who run businesses are members of their community, have a concern about public relations, local community relations, their ability to attract workers who will feel good about their work, are also governed not just by laws but also their own ethics. Of course there are short term focused, unethical business people, but I would posit that they do not occur in greater numbers than unethical government bureaucrats whose sole purpose is job protection and the growing of power for their agency. Both sides need to be checked. The assumption that the government people always want what is best is very naive and dangerous. The assumption that the profit motive causes more malfeasance than the power motive I think is way off base.

  64. So I looked up the Gold King Mine spill, which indeed was directly caused by the EPA. But, there is a lot more to the story. First of all, the acid waste was orginally caused by a private company, which abandoned the mine, leaving the mess behind. In fact, it seems there were a number of mines in the area which were abandoned, some as recently as the 90’s, making the mess even worse. The EPA wanted to use Superfund money to fully mitigate the area, but the local communities refused, for reasons that do not seem clear to me. Wikipedia says they were afraid of lost tourism. So, yes, EPA screwed up bigtime on this, but they were stuck trying to do a halfassed job because the local towns didn’t want a Superfund cleanup. And they were using a private company as contractors to do some of the job. The biggest mistake, I think, was they didn’t notify area communities in a timely basis.
    Ironically, after the spill, the local communities decided to take the Superfund money after all
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_Gold_King_Mine_waste_water_spill

  65. “People who run businesses are members of their community, have a concern about public relations, local community relations”
    That is a very idealistic statement. Many businesses are global conglomerates who could care less about local communities.

  66. Interesting piece by a liberal gay atheist journalist who, after writing a neutral piece about Breitbart’s Milo in Out magazine, was subject to such intense vilification, both IRL and online, that he has crossed over to the other side:

    “And I began to realize that maybe my opinions just didn’t fit in with the liberal status quo, which seems to mean that you must absolutely hate Trump, his supporters and everything they believe. If you dare not to protest or boycott Trump, you are a traitor.
    If you dare to question liberal stances or make an effort toward understanding why conservatives think the way they do, you are a traitor.
    It can seem like liberals are actually against free speech if it fails to conform with the way they think. And I don’t want to be a part of that club anymore.
    It used to be that if you were a gay, educated atheist living in New York, you had no choice but to be liberal. But as I met more Trump supporters with whom I was able to have engaging, civil discussions about issues that impact us all, I realized that I like these people — even if I have some issues with Trump himself. For example, I don’t like his travel ban or the cabinet choices he’s made.
    But I finally had to admit to myself that I am closer to the right than where the left is today. And, yes, just three months ago, I voted for Hillary Clinton.”

    http://nypost.com/2017/02/11/im-a-gay-new-yorker-and-im-coming-out-as-a-conservative/

    He probably won’t get a “nevertheless, he persisted” meme. But, nevertheless, he has. Good for him.

  67. Both sides need to be checked.

    Exactly. You need a balance.

    The assumption that the government people always want what is best is very naive and dangerous.

    Cordelia once made a comment about how she witnessed some school incompetence and it made her realize how people could think farmers were always up to no good. Two thoughts stuck out:

    1. The implied idea that she (in particular and farmers in general) would never make a mistake or do anything wrong or harm others for her own gain under the right circumstances.

    2. The idea that we think anyone is more likely than others to be to up to no good. Everyone has that propensity, that’s why you need businesses trying to cut corners to make a buck and you need regulators there to step in when the externalities get out of hand. And to WCE’s point you need lobbyists, the political process and the courts to intervene when the regulators get out of control as you have the inverse when industry gets out of control.

  68. Companies like Massey Energy, which had holdings all through Appalachia, and a long record of spills, safety violations, and of course the Upper Big Branch mine explosion, clearly did not have their local communities interests at heart. Sadly, they still exist, having been bought by Alpha Natural Resources, which is now the largest metallurgical coal company. Do you think that company cares very much about its communities???
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massey_Energy

  69. Rhett,

    It wasn’t the locals who didn’t want to pay. It was the state water contractors and the Feds who didn’t want to pat. The state water contactors, largest member, the metropolitan water district of Southern California, said that they paid for water supply, the Feds pay for flood control. The state water contractors argued that the emergency spillway was a flood control structure. There is some merit to that argument, but the locals, the people who were evacuated, wanted the dam fixed.

    There are constantly shifting alliances between the various interest groups. Generall, the two main sides are either enviro v Ag or north v south. However, since there is ag in both north and south, and environs in both north and south, there are constant strange bedfellow alliances.

  70. People who run businesses are members of their community, have a concern about public relations, local community relations, their ability to attract workers who will feel good about their work, are also governed not just by laws but also their own ethics.

    thank you Mafalda

  71. Pseudonym,

    I will note that the engineers who signed off on the non-concrete spillway haven’t yet been proven wrong. It is acceptable engineering practice that emergency spillways, if they are ever used, suffer significant damage. As it stands now, the emergency spillway is damaged but functional. It’s not yet a matter of fact that it would have been a good use of money to spend $200 million on lining the emergency spillway.

  72. The feds create massive environmental havoc every year. In addition to Flint, Michigan, the Gold King Mine, the Oroville Dam, what are about the wildfires every summer that cause massive destruction, in large part because of mismanagement by the U.S. Forest Service?

  73. There is some merit to that argument, but the locals, the people who were evacuated, wanted the dam fixed.

    Not if they had to pay for it. Lake Orroville is a tourist draw so presumably the locals would prefer the lake level stay high and Central Valley Ag and LA can wither. Should they also be able to dictate that?

  74. As it stands now, the emergency spillway is damaged but functional. It’s not yet a matter of fact that it would have been a good use of money to spend $200 million on lining the emergency spillway.

    It is not functional. If they run water over it again, it is in significant danger of collapse. There was massive panic on Sunday. They thought the emergency spillway had less than 60 minutes until failure

    It is not really even a spillway. It is a ravine, with a concrete lip at the dam. It was never expected to be used, because there was supposed to be another dam on a major tributary to the Feather so that massive flows could go over the main spillway without risk of flooding downstream..

  75. The feds create massive environmental havoc every year. In addition to Flint, Michigan,

    The feds are at fault because they didn’t force the state and local authorities to meet burdensome environmental regulations. I thought the lead levels in Flint water are best left to the wisdom of state and local officials?

  76. Lake Oroville is a tourist draw so presumably the locals would prefer the lake level stay high and Central Valley Ag and LA can wither.

    the local position has long been that the dam is a net drain on local resources.

  77. It was never expected to be used

    They did a geological and hydrological analysis 10 year ago after the Sierra Club suit that said lining it wasn’t necessary.

  78. the local position has long been that the dam is a net drain on local resources.

    Then they should be able to remove and let the river flow if they so choose.

  79. Pseudonym, Mafalda’s statement is just so pie-in-the-sky idealistic that I can only shake my head. Yes, there are local businesses around who give back. The local restaurants, the local orthodontist, the florist, the car repair place, the plumbers we use – all good people who I do believe have the interests of my community at heart. But our fortunes are not determined these days by the local plumbing company. Our fortunes are determined by global companies like Walmart and Target, Exxon, the large natural resource extractors, the global food companies, big insurance companies, healthcare conglomerates. These are all successful businesses, quite competent in the sense that they can do what they do more cheaply and efficiently than the competitors in their niche. But they are not part of any local community and they don’t care about any one community. And you guys know that perfectly well. Those are the forces buffeting our Trump voters, automating their manufacturing jobs and closing their mines.

  80. MM,

    Milo’s not here but he often would bring up the episode of The Sopranos where they tried to shake down a Starbucks and the manager was like, “I can’t do anything without clearance from headquarters.” On the other hand, you need a lot less regulation if businesses are small and local as the community can enforce its norms. However, that’s highly inefficient. But, if you go bigger, you need a lot more regulation as local communities no longer have nearly as much informal control over the businesses in their community.

  81. “People who run businesses are members of their community, have a concern about public relations, local community relations, their ability to attract workers who will feel good about their work, are also governed not just by laws but also their own ethics.”

    I disagree. Companies care about those things as long as they relate to the bottom line more than anything else. In the end – the bottom line wins. Corporations spend a lot of time, money and effort to stay right on the edges of the law in all aspects of their businesses. That’s why sensible laws and regulations are necessary. Otherwise dumping waste into rivers, not following safety procedures, marketing cigarettes to kids, and not paying overtime or following FMLA will win. Yes, business leaders are human beings and most want to conduct business in a humane way, but their main, explicitly-stated responsibility is to the shareholders,. If they don’t provide bottom-line results, they will be out. Even when you think of “employee-friendly” workplaces, they are providing certain benefits because they are ultimately good for the company in attracting and retaining talent and in the end – SAVING MONEY.

    On top of that – big corporations don’t have any vested interest in the local communities in which they operate. The local leadership usually does (although maybe not if they are just stopping through), but they also only have so much power in the context of multinational operations.

  82. FWIW, I don’t think the government is always right/good either. God knows, I live in a state where the Governor tried to shake down a Children’s Hospital, and our Mayors are legendary for their corruption. Also, I don’t think that government work tends to be attractive to the best & brightest for a whole variety of reasons. But if all sides are flawed, then I want the checks & balances of having these agencies do an imperfect job rather than relying on the goodness of CEO’s.

  83. are also governed not just by laws but also their own ethics

    As Alan Greenspan thought we don’t need tough banking regulation as banks have every interest in not bankrupting themselves. As it turns out, not only can’t you rely on a bankers ethics, it’s even hard to rely on their self interest.

  84. Flynn last July, in reference to Hillary Clinton ““If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail today.”

    lol.

  85. Are “our fortunes” really determined by global conglomerates?

    Isn’t that at the core of Trumps campaign rhetoric?

  86. Trump was accused of using anti-Semitic tropes when he or his ads mentioned global firms controlling our fortunes. So it was surprising to see MM using that argument.

  87. Then you agree he did use that as a core component of his campaign. The the question then is, is he wrong? And if he’s wrong, why do you feel he’s wrong?

  88. For clarity: I think the EPA is competent enough to have the right to regulate- I don’t have an issue with its existence. I pointed out its spill because I think (because it hires people with the same technical skills and limitations as private companies) private companies are also mostly competent.

    The issue about whether environmentally hazardous activities (mining) are better done here or in China is a separate question that affects what U.S. regulations should be.

    Rhett is probably right that I place too much faith in cost-risk-benefit analysis. I mostly feel like lobbyists, politicians and voters make decisions on feelings (IDEA is good for disabled kids! This dam is awesome and provides hydropower!) rather than careful thought about long-term costs (But we’re only going to fund IDEA at 16% instead of the 40% we promised! But paying to maintain a dam is a much harder sell to voters than building one!)

  89. Rhett got the point I was making- profit making does not necessarily equal incentive to do harm just as wanting more power does not equal incentive to do harm. It seems to me that in some Democrat institutions the answer is always more power to the regulators and it can get unbalanced. Mooshi you only took one part of my statement to argue with. My opening to my comment was to counter the notion that regulators always want to do the right thing and business people always try to get away with wrong doing.

  90. It seems to me that in some Democrat institutions the answer is always more power to the regulators and it can get unbalanced.

    In the spirit of not just contradicting people I disagree with, I’ll say that I agree with this. Some regulatory agencies get a little power-mad. Some get completely corrupt — wasn’t it DEA agents who got a little too heavily into the hookers and blow?

    Nevertheless, Mooshi and Rhett are entirely correct that without some kind of regulatory action, most corporations will do whatever it takes to maximize profits, and maximizing profits means ignoring expensive stuff like correct waste disposal and keeping the water clean and protecting employee safety, etc.

  91. “Nevertheless, Mooshi and Rhett are entirely correct that without some kind of regulatory action, most corporations will do whatever it takes to maximize profits, and maximizing profits means ignoring expensive stuff like correct waste disposal and keeping the water clean and protecting employee safety, etc.”

    Not only will they do it, but they are explicitly charged to maximize profits for their shareholders.

  92. “I don’t think anyone has argued for zero level of regulation.”

    I don’t think anyone has argued for benevolent Centralized Government Control either though. It’s all in the grey area in between.

  93. Rocky – I like your response. You know what this conversation makes me realize? I basically agree with progressive ideas and with regulation and safety nets. I just react negatively when I hear the rhetoric framed as “Business people are evil. The profit motive renders decent people incapable of having ethics, the government needs to protect the people from business.” It makes me disagree with the person even if the actions recommended are reasonable. I bet it’s like how people feel when they suspect racism is the true motive behind disagreeing with Obama. It doesn’t help when business haters have never run a business themselves.

  94. In my inevitable slide to homeschool, I was doing some research to figure out what early elementary student are supposed to know about home school. I found our states interpretation of CC with these (actual) examples…

    -Explains how people can respect the rights of others to live safely in the neighborhood by obeying speed limits [I was was late 30s and living with small children in an area without sidewalks before I understood this]
    -Explains how people’s choice of purchasing goods from a large business can result in the loss of smaller businesses [great,as if I need another reason for my kids to complain about Costco this weekend]
    -Explains points of view on how to stop littering. [are there many interesting point of view on this?]

    Anyway, I’m not against rigorous national standards, but the interpretation seems lacking. I also am realizing that I am for some rigorous memorization of facts, like “can name all the states” – which seems to be lacking.

  95. Mafalda, in my experience, many business people want some regulation, precisely because they don’t want to be driven to the worst excesses in order to compete. If everyone in the industry is being watched by the regulators, then everyone can compete on an equal playing field that doesn’t include polluting the air (or whatever).

    Now obviously that’s a bit sixth-grade textbook idealistic, but it’s still somewhat true.

  96. “Mafalda, in my experience, many business people want some regulation, precisely because they don’t want to be driven to the worst excesses in order to compete. If everyone in the industry is being watched by the regulators, then everyone can compete on an equal playing field that doesn’t include polluting the air (or whatever).”

    I agree with this completely.

    I don’t think business leaders are evil, but I do think that they are motivated by profit/growth/financial factors more than anything else, for the most part. But I think this is 100% natural – that is why they were hired and that is why the businesses exist.

  97. And Mooshi is correct about the size of the company mattering. If I may have a Grandpa Simpson moment:

    In Palo Alto in the 1960s there were two pharmacies near my house, Midtown Pharmacy and Fremont Pharmacy. They were only about two blocks apart. They were independently owned by families who lived in town. The kids from those families went to the local public schools with the rest of us. If you had a complaint, you talked to the owner and worked things out (or permanently shopped at the competitor). Fremont carried some oddball stuff that Midtown didn’t. Midtown delivered (and hired local kids to do the deliveries, often on bike). Of course pharmacies were regulated even in the 60s. But the owners were members of the community and were concerned about maintaining their reputations and their friendships.

    Now, in 2017, if you want a prescription filled, you go to Walmart or Walgreens or Target or CVS. The CEO of Target, Brian Cornell, does not live in my neighborhood. His kids don’t go to my school. He has shareholders to answer to. He has quarterly profits to announce. His situation is almost, though not entirely, unlike the situations of the owner of Midtown and Fremont Pharmacies. His motivations are different. His influences are different. His universe is different. I’m not saying he’s a bad person. He may be very nice. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve never met him, and that’s my whole point.

  98. It’s much easier to pass laws that make pollution illegal than it is to execute complex processes or clean up previous environmental problems without polluting. Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon (British Petroleum) oil spills come to mind as cases where corporations polluted without having a policy to pollute and were [appropriately] held liable for consequences in ways that the EPA was not held liable for Gold King Mine.

    There have been some attempts to hold Dow liable for cleanup of poison gas from World War I that is buried somewhere (no one knows where) on Dow’s property, because the federal government asked Dow to make sure no one obtained the poison gas that the federal government needed to get rid of after World War I, and Dow acted as a good corporate post-World-War I citizen by burying it in a place no one would find it and telling no one where it was.

    When I think of the technical competence and ongoing funding necessary to not pollute while, say, drilling oil or fracking, I compare how private industry maintains its (for profit) structures to how the government maintains infrastructure (dams, highways, bridges, etc.). I am not convinced that government would do a better job of not polluting while drilling/fracking/mining than private industry does.

    In short, regulating is technically easier than not polluting, unless the goal is no drilling/fracking/mining.

  99. The CEO of Target doesn’t live in your neighborhood, but the pharmacists do, and in smaller communities anyhow, are very attuned to customer service.
    And, unlike the independent pharmacies BITD, the big-box pharmacies can fill your prescription on a Sunday while you pick up some groceries, offer you a drive-through window, and provide your prescription instantly when you need a refill while traveling.

  100. but the pharmacists do

    And they’re unionized!

    the big-box pharmacies can fill your prescription on a Sunday while you pick up some groceries

    Which has exactly nothing to do with my point. Once again, the point is, we can no longer rely on community pressure alone to regulate business.

  101. I am not convinced that government would do a better job of not polluting while drilling/fracking/mining than private industry does

    No one is expecting the government to do the drilling. The question is without the EPA would frackers, out of the kindness of their altruistic heart, not pollute. I’d say no because they’d be driven out of business by those with lower costs because they were polluting.

  102. the big-box pharmacies can fill your prescription on a Sunday while you pick up some groceries

    Which is why Trump won. That sort of free market nonsense* isn’t selling as well as it once did.

    * Back in the day communities enforce the Sabbath for the good of the community. Then free marketers came to town and said businesses should be able to open when the like – that’s between the workers and management. You are delighted that the Sabbath is no longer observed…how interesting.

  103. California pharmacists are unionized. Most are not.

    At least some in Colorado are; I know because DH has to deal with their union.

  104. “You are delighted that the Sabbath is no longer observed…how interesting.”

    Render to Caesar what belong to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.

    One can observe the Sabbath without forcing others to do so.

  105. “we can no longer rely on community pressure alone to regulate business”

    Many large corporations offered benefits to same-sex couples long before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. Isn’t that an example of a business responding to community pressure?

  106. “The question is without the EPA would frackers, out of the kindness of their altruistic heart, not pollute. I’d say no because they’d be driven out of business by those with lower costs because they were polluting.”

    Right.

    And a pharmacist at Target may be a great pharmacist & neighbor who gives you good advice when you go on Sunday to pick up your meds, but yet has very little power to influence or override Corporate policy. That would also be true of the Target store manager, who might be a better example in this situation. The manager can certainly make employees’ work lives miserable or can be a good & benevolent manager in some ways, but probably doesn’t really have power over overriding corporate policies. Often, those are the most important ones – pay/benefits/leave policy, etc.

  107. One can observe the Sabbath without forcing others to do so.

    If CVS wants you to work Sunday you work Sunday. Ah, you say then find another job, let the free market sort it out.

    Well, we all know, to quote the VP, “The free market has been sorting it out and America has been losing.”

  108. “Many large corporations offered benefits to same-sex couples long before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. Isn’t that an example of a business responding to community pressure?”

    I can see your point. But I think that has more to do with cost-benefit that comes out in the company’s favor – not doing something actually against their interest for the good of the public (like voluntarily not polluting beyond what is allowed). The main pressure driving that, IMHO, is in retaining/attracting top talent, in order to save money from turnover and to have a competitive advantage. The cost of covering a few more people on company health insurance (which may or may not be heavily subsidized), is probably less than the cost of turnover/losing talent. Obviously hard to measure, but I can’t imagine that it is not part of the thought/decision process.

  109. “If CVS wants you to work Sunday you work Sunday. Ah, you say then find another job, let the free market sort it out.”

    And if you kid needs antibiotics on Sunday, you tell him to wait until Monday when CVS is open again.
    There are tradeoffs.
    People who are absolutely opposed to working on Sunday are indeed free to select out of job categories that require Sunday hours. Not sure what your point is here? That big corporations are evil because, in response to customer demand, some employees have to work on the Sabbath?

  110. “Yes, because if EPA isn’t more competent than private industry, they don’t deserve to interpret high cost, difficult-to-interpret regulations that make it harder for private industry to compete internationally.”

    So let’s all put the blame where it actually belongs: on Congress and the lawyers. I have met the enemy, and he is us.

    First, EPA and other agencies don’t get the luxury of deciding what to regulate or interpret. Congress passes laws that specifically tells them what to do. Then they pass the regulations that are required to implement that law. Then the Sierra Club sues because the rule isn’t stringent enough, and the Chamber of Commerce countersues because the rule is too stringent and will put good American companies out of business. Usually the rule is overturned in part by some activist judiciary (so-characterized by whichever side lost), and we start the process over. Finally, then, in 5-10 years, we have a rule that survives, and companies start to implement it. Except of course regulators can’t possibly foresee every situation, so then they start issuing interpretations, and there are more lawsuits over whether those interpretations are valid. And meanwhile the companies are doing their best interpretations, too. And then five more years down the road, you have a new Administration and a new head of the agency and all the people who wrote the original rule are gone, and now someone does an inspection and says, gee, why didn’t you do this, and the company points to the rule and all the various interpretations, and now you’re in enforcement and get to argue about what the company did and what the agency meant and whether each interpretation is legitimate.

    And then someone gets angry about Incident X, and Congress decides to change the law. Except all they do is layer on another requirement on top of the existing ones. No one ever goes back to the beginning to see if what made sense in 1970 still makes sense today.

    The part of all of this that has really, really gotten under my skin today is the implication on both sides that people are operating in bad faith. I work with industry, and I work with agency personnel (on both rule interpretation and enforcement defense). In my entire 25-year career, I have not met one company employee who intentionally tried not to comply in order to cut corners/hit profit targets/etc. — I have seen people not understand the context, misinterpret the rules, and make stupid decisions, but I have never seen bad faith (yes, I know they are out there, but so are serial killers — most people aren’t that, and most companies would fire that guy instantly). The vast majority of really bad shit I have dealt with has been standard right-hand, left-hand stuff — every criminal incident I have ever dealt with had multiple points at which the normal corporate procedures would have caught the mistake before it happened (or at least in time to seriously minimize the damage), and for just sheer bad luck the gaps in the system all aligned perfectly.

    I have *also* not met one single regulator who was in it for the power and self-aggrandizement — the biggest, most recurring failing is that they are “true believers” in the mission of the Agency and do not have any experience working for industry, or any comprehension that their life’s mission is just one of 800,000 equally pressing regulatory requirements that the company must comply with every single day just to stay in business. They are like the teacher who assumes that you have no other homework or tests. I have worked with a bunch, several of whom I have repeatedly wanted to throttle — but it was because of naivete, not bad intent. And usually the real problems come when new administrations come in and want to make their own mark — get rid of some programs, start new ones, and generally divert resources on both the agency’s side and the companies’.

    I don’t have a solution. Personally, I think we need strong, clear regulations, because it sets a reasonable floor for everyone — I tend to represent companies who want to comply, and it is in their interest to hold everyone else to those same standards. But I wish the agency priorities and budgets weren’t so damn political — I have one client who may well be forced out of business, because the agency in question was involved in a lawsuit with a special interest group, and so when the agency rewrote this particular rule, it did exactly what that special interest group wanted, which is basically to force new law on a specific issue, even if the result is to put my client out of business. And that’s all fine with the agency, both because of this lawsuit that existed before my clients ever got involved, and because the agency head in question was very tight with this particular group.

    But in any event, it doesn’t help anything to demonize the other side. 99%+ on both sides are reasonable, decent people, who go home to their families every night, and who are doing the best they can within the framework of this impossible system that Congress and the lawyers built for them.

  111. ” In my entire 25-year career, I have not met one company employee who intentionally tried not to comply in order to cut corners/hit profit targets/etc.”

    That’s not the point that I was trying to make. The point is that for-profit companies are not going to voluntarily decide to put the public good before company profits because it is quite specifically not their job to do so. On top of that, as companies get to a certain size and scale or are publicly-traded, that intensifies.

    Your viewpoint and experience is well-taken on the details of how it all works in practice though. I have seen slices of that in my field too.

    “But in any event, it doesn’t help anything to demonize the other side. 99%+ on both sides are reasonable, decent people, who go home to their families every night, and who are doing the best they can within the framework of this impossible system that Congress and the lawyers built for them.”

    I agree with this too. And there are definitely a few bad actors on all sides of this, along with some well-intentioned, but incompetent people.

  112. And if you kid needs antibiotics on Sunday, you tell him to wait until Monday when CVS is open again.

    Do what they do in Germany and one pharmacy in an area stays open and the others post a note on their doors telling you where to go.

    That big corporations are evil because, in response to customer demand, some employees have to work on the Sabbath?

    Exactly.

  113. Scarlett,

    It’s more that I think the free marketers are evil for overturning a centuries old tradition of community enforced norms.

  114. People who are absolutely opposed to working on Sunday are indeed free to select out of job categories that require Sunday hours

    The free market will sort it out. Trump won because people don’t buy that anymore.

  115. But the community has made clear, even here in flyover country, that they *want* stores to be open on Sundays. (They also respect and support businesses like Chick Filet and Hobby Lobby, that have chosen to remain closed on Sundays.)

    Traditions evolve with the times. When I was a kid, the only stores open on Sundays were convenience stores. But that was then, and this is now.

    And if you regard corporations as evil for overturning a centuries-old community-enforced norm, do you also regard the federal judiciary as evil for overturning an even longer community-enforced norm of marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman?

  116. I concur with LfB that both companies and regulatory compliance agencies have good people.

    One of the disadvantages of how the U.S. writes and interprets laws/regulations is that we spend far more on legal services than other developed countries. This may be part of why the U.S. has spent only ~5% of GNP on infrastructure (like dams, bridges, and transportation systems) since the 1960’s, compared to ~10% in western Europe.

    Similarly, our unwillingness to make cost-benefit tradeoffs with federal healthcare funding is at least part of why our healthcare spending is ~18% of GDP.

  117. But the community has made clear, even here in flyover country, that they *want* stores to be open on Sundays.

    They also want cheap products from Mexico and China. They voted for Trump so he could order the government to prevent them from choosing those Mexican and Chinese products as they realized they were making consumer choices that were detrimental to the country at large.

  118. “They also want cheap products from Mexico and China.”

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

  119. One of the disadvantages of how the U.S. writes and interprets laws/regulations is that we spend far more on legal services than other developed countries.

    Wait, so now it’s the lawyers’ fault?

  120. Sorry, but this is a sad political thread. Y’all are politely arguing the gray areas of government regulation, when all kinds of crazy sh$t is breaking loose in Washington. I kicked off this week’s thread by saying that the Russian thing, and Trump’s conflicts of interest, are the two overarching Bad Things going on. And now here we are: Flynn out over illegal communication with the Russians, and it turns out that Trump knew about it for weeks and did and said nothing. And the Ethics office wants to investigate Kellyanne Conway for conflicts of interest after plugging Ivanka’s stuff, something that would be comical except it is happening in the midst of a lot of crazy chaos.
    I would have thought everyone here would be chattering. Or perhaps it is just too toxic?

    Thomas Friedman on all of this

  121. Friedman is unhinged.

    “We need to rerun the tape. Ladies and gentlemen, we were attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, and we were attacked on Nov. 8, 2016. That most recent attack didn’t involve a horrible loss of lives, but it was devastating in its own way. Our entire intelligence community concluded that Russia hacked our election by deliberately breaking into Democratic National Committee computers and then drip-by-drip funneling embarrassing emails through WikiLeaks to undermine Clinton’s campaign. And what have we done about it? Other than a wrist slap against Moscow, we’ve moved on.”

    Sorry, but equating the revelation of embarrassing emails with Pearl Harbor and 9/11 goes beyond absurd. There have been absolutely no allegations that Russia or anyone else interfered with a single vote, but nevertheless, the “Russia hacked our election” meme persists on the left.

  122. They hacked into various networks and then released that data they found in order to sway voters. How is that not hacking the election?

    What term would you prefer for what they did?

  123. “According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister.”http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/state-dept-350k-group-built-campaign-structure-used-against-election-israels

    Did the Obama Administration’s efforts to influence the outcome of an overseas election amount to “hacking?”

  124. Mooshi,

    I am beyond speechless with everything going on. I really want to know what it would take for the Trump supporters to say enough is enough.
    Is there anything he or his team could do for that to happen?

  125. Scarlett,

    They are calling it “hacking” the election because the central crime involved a violation of the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) 18 U.S. Code §1030 i.e. hacking by the Russians.

  126. Rhett,
    Somebody certainly “hacked” the DNC and Podesta computers.
    “Hacking the election” suggests that someone interfered with votes.

    And does it matter how, exactly, the Obama administration attempted to influence the outcome of an overseas election? Or for that matter, how previous American administrations engaged in campaigns of persuasion and disinformation in order to influence the outcome of overseas elections?

  127. “but I have never seen bad faith (yes, I know they are out there, but so are serial killers — most people aren’t that, and most companies would fire that guy instantly)”

    Yes, cases like Volkswagen and Wells Fargo tell us that companies and their employees do act in bad faith.

  128. “Hacking the election” suggests that someone interfered with votes.

    Did they hack the voting machines? No. Did they use hacking to interfere with the election? Yes. What else would you call using hacking to influence the election?

    Can you at least concede that whoever invented the right wing meme that “hacking the election” was a left wing meme was full of it?

  129. OK, let’s try this again. What would you, or Republicans in general, be saying right now, had Hillary won, and it turned out her national security advisor-designee had engaged in illegal contacts with, say, the Chinese government before the transition? And lied about it. And furthermore, that the DOJ had notified Hillary, but she had said and done nothing about it for several weeks, until the you-know-what hit the press? Think about it.

  130. My relatives would be saying, “This is what we expect from Clinton,” but then again, that’s why they didn’t vote for her.

  131. “Did they use hacking to interfere with the election? Yes. What else would you call using hacking to influence the election?”

    But how did they “interfere” with the election? Did they prevent people from voting? No. Did they spread false information about the candidates? No. Did the embarrassing emails convince voters who would otherwise have voted for Clinton to vote against her? Seriously? How many voters would even be able to identify John Podesta, let alone summarize the content of his hacked emails?

  132. Yeah, the dumb voters were definitely influenced by the hack. They read snippets of Breitbart and have Hillary derangement syndrome. Sad!

  133. So, WCE, by that logic, are your relatives now wshing they hadn’t voted for Trump? Or if they voted thrid party, saying “this is what we expect from Trump and why we didn’t vote for him”?

  134. But how did they “interfere” with the election?

    They released illegally obtained private emails that were damaging to one side. If you don’t consider that interfering, then what do you call it?

  135. The lead story on Brietbart is that the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee belongs in jail. The wheels have apparently come off the bus.

  136. Mooshi, my relatives voted (and vote) mostly based on the likely Supreme Court nominee’s viewpoint, based on their opposition to activist judges (Roe vs Wade, and, probably for another generation now, Obergefell vs. Hodges). Until the Democrats renounce legislating issues important to social conservatives via the judiciary, the actual candidate probably won’t make much difference.

  137. The Democrats aren’t going to do that. Social conservatives gets dragged along kicking and screaming by the Democrats. Abortion, gay marriage, healthcare. All things that the Democrats have been able to push through. The Republicans may have won the battle, but they won’t win the war. You can’t stop progress and most new voters grow up thinking these are normal and don’t want to turn back time.

  138. “‘One of the disadvantages of how the U.S. writes and interprets laws/regulations is that we spend far more on legal services than other developed countries.’

    Wait, so now it’s the lawyers’ fault?”

    Rocky, you can blame me for that one. :-) And yeah, pretty much. I really blame Congress (happy to engage offline in a detailed, geeky discussion of exactly how impossible Congress makes it for the agency I work with to actually write reasonable regulations). But most of them are lawyers anyway. And then you have all the challenges to the regulations, which frequently devolve to, effectively, what the meaning of “is” is, and the judges (lawyers!) on different federal courts issue different opinions depending on whether they believe the agency should have more discretion or less. And then all the companies need to figure out what the regulations mean for them, because everyone’s operations are different — lawyers (with a side of consultants)! And finally, in enforcement, one of the most effective defenses is “fair notice,” i.e., that it’s the agency’s job to write the rules in a way that puts people on notice of what they are expected to do to comply, so you dive back into what the agency actually said vs. thought it meant — more lawyers!

    I know I repeat myself, but, really, we have me the enemy, and he is us.

  139. I understand that “activist judiciary” is a phrase used by social conservatives to describe Supreme Court decisions that they perceive as extending Constitutional protection far beyond its intended scope. The laws struck down in Griswold vs CT (the birth control case) were on the books of CT and MA only by the time of the case, even though they were rarely enforced. If the legislatures of those states had not been filled with Catholic politicians who would have been voted out of office if they actually repealed the laws, the laws would have disappeared, and no judicial precedent would have been established. The right to privacy, without getting too geeky about it, asserted in the majority opinion was really a right to marital privacy. That privacy right ended up being extended in subsequent decisions mostly under due process grounds to the birth control decisions of unmarried persons, to abortion and to homosexual conduct.

    The sole dissent in the 40s to a previous unsuccessful attempt to overturn the CT law.

    “The full scope of the liberty guaranteed by the Due Process Clause cannot be found in or limited by the precise terms of the specific guarantees elsewhere provided in the Constitution. This ‘liberty’ is not a series of isolated points pricked out in terms of the taking of property; the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; and so on. It is a rational continuum which, broadly speaking, includes a freedom from all substantial arbitrary impositions and purposeless restraints.” – Justice John Marshall Harlan II, dissent in Poe v. Ullman.

    I am sure that the final sentence quoted here is music to any non-interventionist ear.

    As for myself, I found the recent extension to corporate artificial persons of the personal rights to free speech and free exercise of religion to be an “activist” and non originalist position.

  140. “As for myself, I found the recent extension to corporate artificial persons of the personal rights to free speech and free exercise of religion to be an “activist” and non originalist position.”

    Exactly. FWIW, I know precisely where that term comes from, but I choose to apply it to both ends of the spectrum, because I find it just as “activist” to ignore the clear meaning of a law because a congressional staffer misplaced a comma as it is to infer rights not expressly delineated.

  141. “As for myself, I found the recent extension to corporate artificial persons of the personal rights to free speech and free exercise of religion to be an “activist” and non originalist position.”

    I’ve noticed that the Left is taking this term and applying it in the same way lately, which I support. What is Citizens United if not “activitst”?

  142. @ Rhett – did you see the blurb in the WSJ yesterday where the editor was defending the paper’s coverage of Trump to its own employees? I’ve actually found the WSJ reporting to be very thorough so I’m surprised there was internal pushback, but apparently many reporters think they are being required to go to easy on him.

  143. ” I find it just as “activist” to ignore the clear meaning of a law because a congressional staffer misplaced a comma as it is to infer rights not expressly delineated.”

    That brought this to mind: http://www.rd.com/culture/parking-ticket-comma-lawsuit/

    The quick search to find the above URL also brought up another case in which a missing comma apparently had more serious repurcussions, at least for one person:

    https://ipdraughts.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/hanged-on-a-comma-drafting-can-be-a-matter-of-life-and-death/

    Is this case something you’ve studied in law school?

  144. but apparently many reporters think they are being required to go to easy on him.

    Do you read the comments, though? The WSJ commenters mostly love Trump and fight back hard (mostly just by being insulting) against articles that criticize him.

  145. @ RSM – I didn’t. We are old school and get a paper copy of the WSJ, so I only saw the actual article, no comments to it. I think the WSJ’s coverage has been good. Neutral, even.

  146. One state solution, two state solution, eh, what ever you guys want, I’m good.

    That sure caught my attention. Oh and the contacts with Russia. And dealing with N. Korea in full view of other diners at Mar a Lago. Geesh – it is only Wednesday

  147. Thoughts on Trump’s staff communicating via an app that automatically deletes messages after they have been read? Presumably in order to avoid incriminating themselves, FOI requests, etc.

  148. Excellent how the two state solution has been abandoned so flippantly.

    Everything Trump touches turns to crap.

  149. I think my relatives consider themselves social and economic conservatives, not Republicans. If a new party forms, my relatives will still consider themselves social and economic conservatives. I come from a long line of people who are slow to embrace change.

  150. So the complete denial of russian contact by Manafort is interesting. How long can the details on the continued russian contact from the campaign be contained? Find it hard to believe that the intelligence officials are making this up completely.

  151. Where did we all go on politics the past few days? To tired or too shocked to comment? Getting Trump fatigue or overwhelmed by how bad it actually is? Chime in folks.

  152. I missed what must have been an amazingly funny press conference today, except that it isn’t funny when the President goes off the rails. There seem to be some really good moments from it, but this is one of my faves
    “Asked on Thursday how his government plans to respond to reports of anti-Semitic threats, President Donald Trump declared that he is “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” told a reporter to be quiet, and accused him of asking a “very insulting question.”

    The reporter whos asked the question, btw, was from a Jewish publication
    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-press-conference-anti-semitic-threats-jake-turx-235107

  153. But yeah, largely I am shocked. Really shocked and upset. And feeling really angry at the Republican cowards in Congress.

  154. Getting Trump fatigue or overwhelmed by how bad it actually is?

    Both, but I also made a resolution that for every political comment I make here, I will call one of my members of Congress, and send a postcard, and I will attend organizing meetings at least once or twice a month. So I’m trying to focus on action.

  155. RMS, I am now moving into the semi-hopeless belief that contacting Congress about policy isn’t even relevant or important. If they can’t be moved to find out what happened with the Russians, and you know they were trying to bury it – that is why the people doing the investigation felt they had to do the leaks – then nothing else matters.

  156. It is clear that most of the Republicans only value party, not country. So why do we think wearing pink hats and writing our Congresscritters is going to sway anyone? I think I am going to go crawl into a hole for the next whatever-years.

    Evidently Trump intimated in today’s press rant that if we don’t get closer to the Russians, we will have a nuclear holocaust. I am trying to parse this amazing comment, but it seems that is what he is saying.
    “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 up-side. 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.”

    I think I will go slit my wrists

  157. RMS, I am now moving into the semi-hopeless belief that contacting Congress about policy isn’t even relevant or important.

    No way. Buck up, Buttercup. Always ask yourself, “What would the Tea Party do?” They’d be a permanent pain in the ass, that’s what, with emphasis on permanent. Go call your senators right this second and tell them to investigate the Russian connections.

  158. I am actually not ready to write off the GOP as a whole (although David Purdue, one of our senators, may be the most worthless piece of limp spaghetti ever).

  159. Yeah, but the Tea Party wasn’t battling foreign interference in the election process with a opposition party coverup in progress. They were free to focus on policy

  160. My senators and congresspep[;e are already screaming, loudly, to investigate. But Ryan has no interest. McConnell may be interested as long as the Republicans can control it (aka cover it up)

  161. Tea party tactics can move policy, and will probably make a difference once the Republicans stop fighting with each other and come up with a healthcare proposal. But the thing with the Russians – that is pure Machievellian politics. They don’t DARE investigate because they run the risk of a Watergate size scandal. No amount of entreaties from voters will change that. They will hold the line.

  162. Mooshi, I think there are still some real hawks within the GOP that take this extremely seriously – Lindsey Graham, Roy Blount, John McCain (when he’s the Maverick John McCain, not Palin John McCain), ugh there’s another one on the tip of my tongue and I’m blanking – but these guys I think would push for a genuine investigation.

  163. See, I think Flynn is a distraction, or perhaps a sacrificial lamb.

    What is big here is that Trump knew about Flynn’s contacts, and the fact Flynn lied to Pence, for several weeks, and did nothing. He did nothing until the leaks forced him to do something. In other words, he only fired Flynn once they had been caught.

    I think Trump is completely in the know. And the Republicans won’t do anything.

  164. I am not sure if Trump knew, but there is no way Flynn acted on his own. He got marching orders from someone.

  165. No, Trump knew for several weeks because the DoJ told him. Whether he knew before that is not clear, but very possible

  166. I don’t know what the point of calling my senators and congress people is….”Go Democrats, keep being all liberal, yay!”

    Maybe I can get some kind of crowd-funding swing-state relocation scheme going.

  167. There’s a Swing Left group; look for the one near you. It’s about voting districts rather than states; you adopt a right-wing voting district near you and try to swing it. And insiders say that liberal members of Congress DO appreciate the “Go team! Thank you” messages.

  168. Ada, I think liberal Senators would appreciate the encouragement and knowledge that constituents are noticing what they are doing.

  169. Ah, and Harward just turned down the national security advisor post. I bet he doesn’t want to get involved in Trump’s crazy!

  170. Ada, call the republican senators and congresspeople. It doesn’t matter if you live in their districts/states or not, they don’t know the difference.

  171. Yes, that’s true, but the staff don’t pay attention to you if you’re not a constituent. But I don’t mean to be negative. Go ahead! Call! Anything’s better than arguing with people in the Internet who will never change their minds.

  172. FWIW my mom (82) texted me last night “Can we just have the impeachment now and move on?”

  173. Fred, none of the Trump voters I know will be disappointed if he’s impeached. Trump was 98 on their list of politicians for president, just ahead of Clinton (99) and Anthony Weiner (100).

  174. WCE – all New Yorkers!

    I stayed up and watched Colbert last night just for his take on the press conference. Pretty funny. I haven’t remembered to watch SNL recently (we were out last week), but maybe tomorrow.

  175. WCE – I have conservative friends who sat out who say they would love to have Trump impeached and get Pence instead. I can understand their thinking. But then why, if this is a common opinion, are the Republcans in the House and Senate so afraid of him?

  176. [Why] are the Republcans in the House and Senate so afraid of him?

    One theory is that they’re not afraid of him; they’re using him for cover. They can get their agendas passed and no one will notice, because everyone’s staring slack-jawed at whatever bizarre tweets 45 has sent out on any given morning.

  177. “But then why, if this is a common opinion, are the Republicans in the House and Senate so afraid of him?”

    I, too, know a number of people who voted for Trump who would prefer someone else.

    But this is a country of laws. What is the impeachable offense? Is it more dangerous to the country, to essentially say, we really don’t like the guy who was elected, so lets have a do over? Is it more dangerous to live with a crazy President?

    I don’t know. I have been otherwise occupied this week and only have caught snippets of news.

    The media has been so biased throughout the election that they can’t be trusted. So that closes out a source of information.

  178. “this is a country of laws”

    How are we going to get that through to the POTUS?

    Rocky is probably right that the right wing in congress is using trump as a decoy. Bannon is too.

  179. RMS, that isn’t what is happening though. Congress is evidently in total paralysis right now. They aren’t getting any guidance or planning from the White House, and when they try to initiate something, a completely contradictory tweet comes down from Trump. Doing legislation takes a lot of coordination and planning, and that part isn’t happening. I was reading yesterday that even the Democrats are frustrated because they can’t counterplan because nothing is happening on the Republican side.
    Not only is healthcare in chaos right now, but evidently everyone is squabbling on Ryan’s tax reform plan, and again, there is little help from the White House.

  180. If Trump accomplishes nothing, many of the people who voted for him will be quite satisfied. I sometimes think about the long aftermath of HRC’s decision to aggressively negotiate vaccine costs in the early 1990’s, leading to a decrease in the number of vaccine supplies from ~20 to ~5 and periodic shortages. We now have much less vaccine manufacturing capability than we used to have. I expect similar long-term results from the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act. (For example, phasing out the “temporary” subsidies isn’t going well, and I hope the documented future cuts in Medicare reimbursement for physicians don’t go through, because cutting Medicare reimbursement rates will affect access to care, a fact ignored by the budget analysis.) A vote for Trump was, to many people, a vote for federal government inaction, where a vote for Clinton was a vote for federal government action.

    There are some capabilities- vaccine/biological research and nuclear weapons research are two of them- where the costs to maintain a high level of global capability are minuscule as a portion of the federal budget, but the costs of laying off the people with that expertise and choosing not to fund it anymore may or may not be very high. I remember reading that we were laying off lots of nuclear weapons developers/analysts from Lawrence Livermore National labs and wondering what they were going to do next to support their families.

  181. Pseudonym, you really think the media cannot be trusted as a source of information? Do other posters feel that way? I agree that there are articles and individual journalists that write with a bias, but by reading multiple sources I think it’s possible to get a reasonable sense of what is going on. What do you use as a source of information?

  182. “leading to a decrease in the number of vaccine supplies”

    I’m assuming you meant suppliers.

  183. Finn, yes, a typo.

    MBT, I think the surprise Trump victory illustrates that what the media chooses to ignore is often significant, not so much that the media can’t be trusted. The media source I trust the most is The Economist.

  184. I value good, honest discussion, can’t really see why people are so saddened by the exit of someone who would choose to shrug off reality and tell this kind of lies:
    “election? Did they prevent people from voting? No. Did they spread false information about the candidates? No. Did the embarrassing emails convince voters who would otherwise have voted for Clinton to vote against her? [I stopped copying too early, but she ducked the obvious on that one too]”. We all realize that the candidate she voted for has positioned himself as the lying potus, but I’m surprised to see her fall in line so quickly.

  185. “A vote for Trump was, to many people, a vote for federal government inaction, where a vote for Clinton was a vote for federal government action.”
    I don’t think Paul Ryan sees it that way. He has a long list of stuff he wants to do, in particular changing Medicaid and Medicare and doing tax reform. That sounds pretty activist to me.

  186. WCE, I read the Economist too (I have a Kindle subscription) They are pretty much the effete elite, though. Not very Trumpian at all.

  187. I have no one media source that I absolutely trust. But there is a group that are pretty trustworthy taken as a whole. So when some hot news comes in, I wait to see if it gets picked up across the board. If it is mentioned in the NYTimes, WaPo, and WSJ, even though they might have different interpretations, it is probably a thing to pay attention to.

  188. So an interesting bit of cross checking – WaPo had an article today on how much more money it is costing to protect Trump than to protect Obama. One could easily see that as being pretty partisan, and subject to interpretation. But then I noticed it was picked up on RedState, not to complain about the biased MSM, but to make the point that this is a problem for fiscal conservatives. So now I have more trust in the WaPo article.
    http://www.redstate.com/joesquire/2017/02/17/much-cost-protect-trump-family/

    I am generally not a fan of RedState, not because of its poiltics (I read it, after all, for a counterbalance) but because of its very hysterical tone. Too many headlines with extraenous capitalization. They do whatever the conservative equivalent of pearl-clutching might be. They remind me of Huffington Post. But still, they are an interesting snapshot.

  189. One other thing – I stay away from cable news, including CNN. That stuff is toxic to the brain.

  190. WaPo, NYTimes,WSJ are the three digital subscriptions I pay for, and I do the same as Mooshi re: looking for the same story across those sites. I also read 538, Politico and the Economist when I can, and I skim Fox News online, to see that perspective, although I give that as much weight as HuffPo. I’m not sure where else to gather information if you don’t accept any mainstream news sources.

    S&M, I value the variety of voices we have here. I wanted to only talk to people who think like I do, I could make that happen. I don’t think I gain anything from that, even if I sometimes get frustrated by opinions stated here.

  191. “Pseudonym, you really think the media cannot be trusted as a source of information? Do other posters feel that way?”

    Outside of totebag land this sentiment is shared by most Americans.

    POLL: Voters Trust Trump More Than Media.

    A Gallup poll found the same a couple of days ago. “In its annual confidence poll, Gallup found that Americans’ trust in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ reached its lowest level in polling history, with only 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.”

  192. I have tended to shrug off any unfair or vicious comments here, mainly because I don’t pay close attention to most of the discussions. Plus I tend to subscribe to the idea that “politics ain’t bean-bag” and participants here should be ready for some rough and tumble. Maybe that’s the wrong attitude, and I don’t want to impose my own sensibilities on this blog. I do believe we are mostly civil, and some others here seem to concur.

    I just read a comment that I interpret as calling another poster a liar for expressing an opinion. That’s the kind of comment I would tend to ignore, but imo it does detract from fruitful discussions here. Again, that’s just my opinion and I like to see how others view these things.

  193. I hear those polls about trust in the mainstream media, and I know people who believe that personally, But when I ask them what they consider to be the media, or to give me examples of bad coverage, it always turns out they mean TV news – CNN or their local TV news. I just had a discussion with a conservative FB friend, who pointed out that a particular event not favorable to progressives had not been mentioned on his local TV news, on any channel. I sent him links to coverage in the NYTimes and WaPo, and he said he hadn’t looked in those places. I think a lot of “normal” people just don’t read the national newspapers, so when they make those comments they are really thinking of CNN. And I share their opinion when it comes to cable and TV news-not to be trusted at all!

  194. Fox News poll found more of an even split on belief in the media. 45% believed the Trump administration more, and 42% believe the media more. The results were pretty much based on party affiliation, so I think they more reflect tribalism than actual thought out opinion.

    More importantly
    “The poll, which surveyed 1,013 registered voters between Feb. 11 and 13, also found that a majority of voters supported an aggressive media, with 55 percent of those surveyed saying that it’s better for the country if the media “cover the president aggressively.” Some 38 percent felt the press should give Trump the “benefit of the doubt.”

    71% thought Trump should be more careful with this words while 28% liked it when he speaks his mind

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-media-trust-poll-fox-news-235168

  195. Mooshi, I also find it interesting when conservatives complain about how biased “the media” is, they conveniently ignore all the conservative-slanted sources. They say the media is CNN, MSNBC, network news, and the NYT. When you mention Fox, all the conservative radio shows, the WSJ and all the other conservative slanted newspapers, etc, their response is that those don’t count because they aren’t “mainstream”.

  196. I just read a comment that I interpret as calling another poster a liar for expressing an opinion.

    Which post are you referring to?

  197. CoC,
    The best response to such posts may be no response. I’ve been off the grid and my personal response will be to ignore any other comments from that poster.

  198. So British surgeons feel demoralized because they are beng ranked by their outcomes. And how is this different from the way teachers in the US feel about being similarly ranked by outcomes?

  199. Yeah, it kills me when people who weren’t usually given performance reviews think they’re being oppressed when they’re subjected to them.

  200. When I’m given performance reviews, they try not to ding me for aspects of corporate dysfunction I can’t control. My friend who lives part-time in Europe (Spain, Italy and Switzerland at different times) commented that one of the reasons she opposes single payer healthcare is that the funding is insufficient to provide the level of care available in the U.S. The ICU near their home in Switzerland is inadequately staffed, and she gave some examples of the problems that have resulted.

    When the system is so bad that people are leaving cardiology, not entering cardiology or going to Australia, maybe the system needs to be evaluated.

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