Jackson Withdraws as VA Nominee →

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?


School District Prepares for Gun Violence With Rocks →

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?


“Why People Really Want to Move to Idaho but Are Fleeing Its Neighbor, Wyoming” →

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.


Tax “Overhaul” Bill Passes Congress →

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.



Apple to Introduce Ability to Write Apps That Work on Both macOS and iOS →

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.


Comcast’s Infrastructure Investment →

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?


Democrat Doug Jones Wins in Alabama →

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 votes1 (as of this writ­ing).

  1. If we define san­ity as “could not bring one­self to vote for pe­do­phile and pro­fes­sion­al loony Roy Moore” then we could in­clude the write-in votes, cur­rently total­ing 22,777, as vot­ing for san­ity. But one could also in­ter­pret the write-in voters as say­ing, “I don’t want to be per­son­ally re­spons­ible for it, but I would rather risk pe­do­phile and pro­fes­sion­al loony Roy Moore be­com­ing a United States Sen­at­or than vote for a Demo­crat.” That at­ti­tude is un­deni­ably bet­ter than a vote for Roy Moore, but it is still troub­ling. 


Uranium Firm Urged Trump Officials to Shrink Bears Ears National Monument →

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.


Republicans Fret Over Tax Bill’s Unpopularity →

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.


Trump Administration to Scrap Airline Disclosure Rule →

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.

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