Ronny L. Jackson, President Trump’s embattled nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew from consideration Thursday amid mushrooming allegations of professional misconduct that raised questions about the White House vetting process.
Jackson’s nomination had become imperiled even before Capitol Hill Democrats on Wednesday released new allegations of misconduct. The claims include that he had wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk at a Secret Service going-away party.
Could it be any clearer that Admiral Jackson’s nomination was an impulse on the part of Donald Trump and that it was not given the consideration or vetting that it so badly needed?
The superintendent of a Pennsylvania school district has taken a unique approach to keep his students safe in the event of a school shooting. He’s equipped his classrooms with 5-gallon buckets of river rocks for students to throw at an armed intruder.
His idea to literally stone an armed shooter is not in direct response to the Parkland shooting. [Superindendent] Helsel told BuzzFeed News his schools have had buckets of stones ready to use in their classrooms for two years now.
It’s bad enough that our children have to worry about being shot in school. Now we are asking them to be prepared to literally stone an armed intruder while being shot at. When will this madness end?
Andrew Van Dam reporting for The Washington Post (emphasis added):
Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the union.
Half of its neighbors are in the top five. All but one are in the top 13.
The “but one” is Wyoming. It’s dead last. 51st out of a possible 51 (our ranking is adjusted for population and includes Washington, D.C.). Wyoming lost 1.0 percent of its population in 2017 even as Idaho was gaining 2.2 percent.
So why are so many people leaving Wyoming while Idaho booms?
For clues, look at the full ranking [of states by population growth]. The Pacific Northwest and Mountain West are extremely well represented at the top of the chart but Wyoming and West Virginia are stuck to the bottom. Those two, and others in the lower echelon, have something in common: resource dependence. In their case, it’s primarily coal mining.
Wyoming has long been the nation’s coal king. The vast operations of the Powder River Basin produce more coal than all but a handful of states put together. But cheap natural gas has reduced power plants’ dependence on the mineral and, with it, its price and production. Wyoming’s mines are shipping out fewer tons of coal and getting paid less for each of them.
It’s hard not to think of Trump’s efforts to bring back coal while reading this article. Much has been said and written about why those efforts are ill-advised. There’s been a lot of talk about coal’s negative environmental impacts (all true), and about its declining value as the world (even including the United States!) turns away from fossil fuels to renewal sources of energy such as wind and solar (also true). But there’s another, more primal, economic factor at work: extracted resources, like coal, are inherently volatile. They boom and bust as new deposits are discovered, extracted, and exhausted, and as demand waxes and wanes.
Increasing our dependence on coal makes our economy less stable. Even if Trump can usher in the coal boom times that he has promised, the bust will inevitably follow.
Damian Paletta and Jeff Stein reporting for The Washington Post:
Congress on Wednesday passed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering a landmark legislative victory to President Trump and the Republicans that had once seemed impossible for the fractured party.
The sweeping measure imprints a clear conservative vision on the tax code that will affect nearly every household and business. Corporations will see a massive tax cut, while most Americans will see temporary savings of various sizes. And in a move that may prove politically perilous, Republicans delivered the biggest gains to the wealthy.
I do have to take issue with some of the characterizations of this bill in that article. The idea that this bill is an “overhaul” and “imprints a clear conservative vision on the tax code” is a complete farce. First and foremost, there is absolutely, positively nothing that is clear about this bill:
The passage kicks off an intense period of uncertainty for consumers and businesses as both scramble to understand the changes[…]
Second, this bill does nothing to realize the vision conservatives have talked about for decades with respect to taxes: “A tax system so simple, your tax return would fit on a postcard.” If anything, this bill makes the tax system more complicated, not less.
The bill is also deeply unpopular. It’s almost as if the Republicans are resigned to losing in a big way in the 2018 elections and are just trying to line their pockets before they go.
Mark Gurman reporting for Bloomberg:
Starting as early as next year, software developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware, according to people familiar with the matter.
The report is thin on details as to how this would work, so the floodgates have opened for speculation. Some have suggested that this means Macs are moving to ARM processors. I think this move, however, is entirely unrelated to the possibility of ARM-based Macs; a single app can contain multiple binaries, each compiled for a different processor. And such a transition would take years, anyway, just like the transition to Intel processors.
I think this is much more likely to be the outcome of a unified set of libraries and APIs that will be available on both platforms.
Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:
Comcast yesterday claimed that it will invest more than $50 billion in infrastructure over the next five years because of the repeal of net neutrality rules and the new tax overhaul.
But the numbers show that Comcast’s investments soared while the net neutrality rules were in place and would hit the “new” milestone if its investments continued increasing by a modest amount.
Thus, if Comcast continues increasing capital expenditures by the same rate as it did with net neutrality rules in place, the company would easily break the $50 billion figure that Roberts attributed to the net neutrality repeal and tax break.
Industry-wide, cable broadband speeds soared during the years net neutrality rules were in place.
Is anyone surprised that a major ISP with monopolies or near monopolies in several markets would be dishonest about why it wanted net neutrality repealed?
Jessica Taylor reporting for NPR:
Democrat Doug Jones has won the Alabama Senate special election, a victory that was a stunning upset in a deeply red state that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump. The president, who had backed Republican Roy Moore despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and assault, congratulated Jones on Twitter.
It’s unfortunate that a pedophile and professional loony came so close to winning but in the end sanity prevailed, if only by 21,311 votes (as of this writing).
Juliet Eilperin reporting for The Washington Post:
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and top Utah Republicans have said repeatedly that questions of mining or drilling played no role in President Trump’s announcement Monday that he was cutting the site by more than 1.1 million acres, or 85 percent. Trump also signed a proclamation nearly halving the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is also in southern Utah and has significant coal deposits.
“This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters Tuesday. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the nation’s sole uranium processing mill sits directly next to the boundaries that President Barack Obama designated a year ago when he established Bears Ears. The documents show that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, urged the Trump administration to limit the monument to the smallest size needed to protect key objects and areas, such as archeological sites, to make it easier to access the radioactive ore.
So they were lying about resource extraction in Bears Ears. I am not the least bit surprised.
What always struck me, though, even before this report, is that no one was even trying to claim there wasn’t going to be any mining in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Of course shrinking that monument was all about mining: specifically coal in the Kaiparowits Plateau. But even if the monument shrinks are upheld by the courts, there’s a chance that coal mining still won’t happen; despite Trump’s quixotic quest to bring back coal, the demand for it keeps dropping.
But Kaiparowits does have real treasure under the ground worth digging up: fossils.
Alexander Bolton and Naomi Jagoda reporting for The Hill:
Republican lawmakers are concerned about how their tax bill is being viewed by the public and say they need to do a better job of selling it to middle-class and low-income voters.
A CBS News poll conducted last week found that 53 percent of people nationwide disapprove of the GOP tax bill and only 35 percent approve.
OK, I know this is crazy but maybe, just maybe, the problem with the Republicans’ tax bill is not how it is being marketed. Maybe the problem is the content of the bill.
Melanie Zanona reporting for The Hill:
The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket.
I can’t decide if this comes from the “all regulations are bad” part of Trump’s psyche or the “I must undo everything Obama did” part. Either way, it’s just the latest in a long line of evidence that the Trump Administration may well be the worst in American history. There’s just no good reason to scrap this rule.