FCC chairman Pai video gets in our face

According to all news reports the Republican FCC commissioners’ vote to end net neutrality will likely did go ahead today but chairman Ajit Pai may have jumped the shark.

Since becoming chairman Pai has been leading the charge to eliminate Obama era’s internet neutrality rules, becoming a real cut up in the past week. Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications, or websites you want to use. One application is that they can scuttle content from any selected service, like NetFlix, unless, of course that service chooses to pay an access fee to the telecom.

Despite a massive number requests from lawmakers, tech industry leaders, and the public to delay the FCC vote to end the rule, Pai has dismissed concerns. The New York Times reports that he called complaints “hot air and hysteria.” He denies he is doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer, and sarcastically joked that his nightmare scenario would be refereeing a dispute between Verizon and Sinclair Broadcasting, another company he has been accused of helping with his policies.

Someone must have told him mocking his critics was a winning tactic because he made a video that, according to the avclub.com, he recently uploaded at the conservative site The Daily Caller, [more about Daily Caller here]  in which he pantomimes “all the things” we’ll still be able to do after he guts these regulations for sport. Things like “’gram food” or watch Game Of Thrones . Whew, he’s very cool, not some outta touch corporate tool, nah that man knows the price of bread ‘n’ milk. And,not that it cost that much but who paid for this video foolishness to be posted on The Daily Caller??

And the reviews are in and it’s not pretty. One describes Pai’s video this way: as a bit of textbook “smug asshole gloating,” it’s straight out of the playbook of his boss, Donald Trump, as we’re forced to watch this goofy jackass twist a fidget spinner and do the fucking Harlem Shake, even as he plots to strip protections from the most important technological advance of the modern era.

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However, most people probably saw this coming: the FCC chairman racing ahead to change the internet into something favorable to corporations, more akin to cable pay tee vee. But nobody wants Pai in our face with a video; that’s not even funny.

Gov. Sununu goes off-the-cuff on voting restrictions

I can see New Hampshire from my kitchen window. So I kind of keep an eye on how Vermont’s upside down doppelganger is doing living free and voting over there. The Valley News reports: Voting rights advocates are highlighting a new video which appears to show Republican Gov. Chris Sununu voicing his opposition to a bill opponents say will discourage some New Hampshire college students from voting.

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Opponents of the bill, HB 372, say it’s an unfair attempt to target students, imposing the stricter requirements of residency in order to vote. If it’s passed, they say, students who attend college in New Hampshire but are from out of state would be required to obtain a driver’s license and register their vehicles here.

Referencing the bill in the video, made at a voting rights activists’ forum, Governor Sununu says: “No. I hate it. I know what you’re talking about. I’m not a fan. I’m hoping that the Legislature kills it.”

This is quite an about-face shift for the GOP Governor that has voiced opposition to motor-voter laws, and shortly after he was elected began advocating for tightening voter registration requirements. Sununu was perhaps the original source of a long running zombie lie about voting fraud in his state, one still used by Donald Trump in his tireless campaign to stamp out imaginary voter fraud. In 2016 then-candidate for governor Sununu told a right-wing radio host: “We have same day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them [them!] in all over the place,”

New Hampshire voting rights activists are pleased with what Sununu said on that video but may want to hold their praise: Republican legislative leaders are confident of his support and dismissing his remarks. You see, explained a member of the state Senate: “He [Sununu] has a knack for speaking off the cuff,” [NH Senate Minority Leader Jeff ] Woodburn said, adding the governor sometimes tailors his message to specific audiences [added emphasis]. The take-home lesson could be that B.S. isn’t just delivered by fast talkers but in our neck of the woods can easily arrive off-the-cuff from a GOP governor.

And if you don’t believe as I do that New Hampshire is Vermont’s upside-down doppelganger Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardener enthusiastically supports his state’s new vote-restricting legislation. Oh and Democrat Gardener despite the fact according to the Concord Monitor, Gardener who previously debunked these bogus accusations of voter fraud is a member in good standing of Trump’s bogus Election Integrity Commission. It is a funny state, New Hampshire. By the way do you know they own the Connecticut River to the Vermont shoreline high watermark I’ll keep a lookout so you don’t have to.

Governor Scott’s blue sky thinking on climate change

Vtdigger.com reports Scott sees potential ‘economic boon’ in climate change .

At his Thursday news conference Governor Scott was asked about the climate change issue. “I’m not sure that there’s a financial threat” to Vermont as a result of climate change, Scott said. And he suggested that with California experiencing rampaging wildfires it makes Vermont look pretty good.

Governor Scott has quite a sunny view of what climate change will do for Vermont it’s an opportunity, you see! This is kind of surprising as barely a couple days ago it was revealed that his administration was so loath to use the term “climate change” in a draft policy paper a plan for the future development that they edited the reference out.

But now Republican (Phil, not Rick of Fla.) Scott says, “Climate change could be in some ways beneficial to Vermont, when we’re seeing some of the activity in California today, with the wildfires and so forth, and lack of water in some regions of the country, if we protect our resources we could use this as an economic boon, in some respects,” Scott said.

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A reporter asked whether Scott meant that if refugees fleeing wildfires and drought “have to relocate somewhere, they’d come to Vermont.”

“They’d come to Vermont, right,” Scott said.

What do you suppose those now “seeing some of the activity in California today […] wildfires and so forth, and lack of water” (also called having their homes destroyed and lives regularly threatened by massive wildfires) might feel about Scott’s remarks?

A recent study published by The Impact Lab titled, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States, and reported in the Atlantic.com  one of the first to apply regional economic models to climate change found: Climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the United States, essentially transferring wealth from poor counties in the Southeast and the Midwest to well-off communities in the Northeast and on the coasts.

Other sections of the U.S. will suffer alarmingly according to the report: The loss of human life dwarfs all the other economic costs of climate change. Almost every county between El Paso, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could see their mortality rate rise by more than 20 people out of every 100,000. By comparison, car accidents killed about 11 Americans out of every 100,000 in 2015.

From his remarks it sounds possible that our Governor Scott is familiar with this paper. And perhaps if the study’s predictions prove reliable and you want to think only regionally there might even be some advantage for Vermont, for now. The study does note: If climate change continues unabated into the 22nd century, the North will likely eventually “flip over” into much higher temperatures and more severe economic  damages.”

And critics of the study caution in the Atlantic.com about its predictions: But this emphasis on the observed [the impact study is modeled on previously observed data] means that the research omitted many serious risks of climate change — even those the researchers considered important — if the data describing them was too paltry. The estimates do not include “non-market goods” like the loss of biodiversity or natural splendor. In other words: Most people agree that dead polar bears have an economic cost, but there’s no consensus on how to approximate it.

The study also doesn’t account for the increased likelihood of “tail risks”—that is, unlikely events with catastrophic consequences. Many researchers believe that global warming will make social strife, mass migration, or global military calamity more likely, but those events are, by definition, hard to predict.

For now let’s everyone keep a sharp eye out to see how Phil Scott is directing his administration to plan for climate change [oops]. But it’s possible the Governor was just trying out a little blue-sky thinking at his Thursday press conference you know, B.S. for short.

Trump Dept. of Labor to employers: “Keep the change”

Last Labor Day The Nation.com took stock of what the Trump administration is doing for workers right… erm, make that doing to workers rights, and came to the conclusion that the rollback of labor rights and protections since Trump took office is staggering.

And now just in time for Christmas, Trump McScrooge and his anti-labor elves have rolled back an Obama labor regulation that let restaurant employees keep their tips instead of pooling them with non-tipped workers. They claim the Obama regulation had contributed to pay disparities between servers and other staff like cooks and dishwashers. Interestingly, though, Trump’s Dept of Labor supposed effort to change that will also allow employers to legally keep all the tips for themselves provided the tipped workers earn the minimum wage.notipping

Vox media’s Eater.com explains how it works: A big problem with the new regulations is that employers may now legally pocket tips. Under the traditional paradigm, an employer takes the tip credit, pays all of their “service-facing” employees $2.13 an hour plus tips, and pays cooks and dishwashers $7.25 an hour, no tips (the numbers would be different according to minimum wage laws state to state, but this is the general idea).

But if they decide to follow the DOL’s new rule and they don’t take the tip credit, and instead pay minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to all their employees, then tips are no longer considered the property of the employee; they become property of the employer. That employer could split those tips between back and front of the house. Then again, the employer could also keep them all.

The industry owners group the National Restaurant Association (yes, the other NRA) favors the Trump rule change. They have acknowledged the “loophole” that just happens to favor their members but haven’t asked for it to be corrected.

At the national level the NRA for years has helped keep the federal minimum wage for tipped employees steady at $2.13 per hour since 1991. And they actively fight states efforts to hike their minimum wage and to pass paid sick-leave legislation. In the 2016 election cycle the group contributed $960,980  to the GOP, which is 81 percent of their total contribution to political parties for that period.

Commenting on the new “loophole,”  The Economic Policy Institute points out:  Recent research suggests that the total wages stolen from workers due to minimum wage violations exceeds $15 billion each year, and workers in restaurants and bars are much more likely to suffer minimum wage violations than workers in other industries. With that much illegal wage theft currently taking place, it seems obvious that when employers can legally pocket the tips earned by their employees, many will do so.

It’s almost as if the restaurant owners’ generous service to the GOP just earned them a big tip from Trump’s Dept. of Labor. Keep the change, boss.

Down the memory hole: Phil Scott’s Act 250 overhaul team strikes “climate change” from policy paper

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Vermont’s governor not only shares a name and party with Florida’s GOP governor but he apparently shares Governor Rick Scott’s documented problem using the term climate change. While using a maneuver right out of Florida’s playbook here in Vermont, Phil Scott’s administration has been caught eliminating the term climate change from proposed changes to Act 250 the state’s environmental development law.

The scoop from the Burlington Free Press: At issue is a report by Scott administration officials that was submitted in October to legislators who are reviewing the nearly 50-year-old land-use law. As part of their review, legislators are looking specifically at whether development should be judged through the lens of climate change during the Act 250 permit process.

Tayt Brooks  remember him? founder of right-wing conservative super pac Vermonters First, who now works as Director of Affordability and Economic Growth Initiatives for Phil Scott took credit (or blame) for the editing climate change. Tayt Brooks, […] said the Scott administration remains receptive to possible provisions in Act 250 that would address climate change.

“We didn’t view it as a substantial change,” Brooks said of the edits.

He pointed out that the final draft of the administration’s report suggests that lawmakers’ review “should include consideration of climate change in Vermont.”

Yeah, right: consider it but for god’s sake don’t write it or say it out loud!

Governor Scott (ours) after a little trouble with the issue during his campaign  in 2016 he was evolving  has made some encouraging noises about climate change since taking office. He was even tagged recently by governing.com as a glowing example of : “[…] today’s moderate governors.” Phil may have trouble with that moderate label if he continues to try to have try to have it both ways on climate change especially if he lets Tayt Brooks edit his policy proposals.

So, Tayt, when and where did you have your memory hole installed?

Catch-22 in the Hot Zone

“…There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.”                                         -Joseph Heller, “Catch-22.”

Catch-22 cover detail.

This week, Entergy Vermont Yankee’s Government Affairs Manager, Joe Lynch, evoked the logic of “Catch-22” when he suggested that it would be unwise to look for further contamination of the Vermont Yankee site because doing so might redistribute the pollutants to new locations:

“…Additional testing of polluted or potentially polluted areas at Vermont Yankee would ‘introduce the risk of spreading any potential contaminants.’ ”

When further questioned by ANR, Lynch offered the following clarification:

“For instance, he warned that ‘invasive characterization and sampling’ could ‘create new pathways for water infiltration’ – a problem that’ s already causing extra work and expense at Vermont Yankee.”

Lynch also noted that the plant has “active systems still in place” such as fire protection mechanisms that rely on underground pipes.

Oh, those pesky underground pipes! I’m old enough to remember (2010) Entergy insisting to the PSB that there could be no leaks in the undergone pipes because there were no underground pipes.

Eager to get shy of the exhausted milk cow, Vermont Yankee, Entergy is once again indulging in whimsy so as not to further complicate a potential deal with NorthStar. Entergy reinforces its argument against independent sampling with the threat that, should the sale fall through, VY will be mothballed and left standing for decades, laying the exposure risks associated with sampling, as well as the mess of decommissioning, on a future generation of V ermonters.

Here’s your legacy, Kids.  Enjoy and don’t forget to say your prayers!

Nine Senate Democrats support GOP bill to weaken Dodd-Frank

I’ve got to admit not paying much attention lately to the daily barrage of political petitions that land in my email but this one caught my eye. Nine Democrats and one independent on the Senate Banking Committee have signed onto a GOP bill that, according to the Economic Policy Institute (a sponsor of the petition drive, link to sign on at end of diary) will weaken the already weak Dodd-Frank Act.

The Senate Banking Committee will also take two major steps toward reshaping federal financial regulatory and economic policy on Tuesday. The panel is expected to approve the nomination of Jerome Powell to be Federal Reserve chairman, then mark up a bipartisan bill to exempt small and mid-size banks from portions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, champion of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said about this deal: “This bill shows once again how Washington values short-term profits for big banks ahead of the interests of consumers or the safety of the financial system.”

The bill exempts certain size banks, “smaller firms” from the risk-mitigation regulations included in the federal stress and oversight provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Democrats on board with this maneuver include former vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (VA). The other eight are : Senators Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Gary Peters (MI), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA), Michael Bennet (CO); along with Independent Angus King (ME), who caucuses with the Democrats. According to Open Secrets from 2013 to 2018 the securities and investment industry was one of the two  top contributors to all the Democratic senators who support gutting Dodd-Frank except Senators McCaskill and Independent Angus King. zong!

It is particularly discouraging in normal times to see Democrats cheerfully offering the Republicans a helping hand gutting Dodd-Frank regulations. But it is doubly so now, in the time of Trump and with the GOP’s tax bill so recently inflicted on us. Makes me want to holler and… Zong!

Link to sign petition: HERE Unbelievably, a contingent of 10 corporate Democrats in the Senate is lining up behind this plan, hopeful their constituents won’t notice – but knowing their Wall Street donors will.”

“Cryin’ won’t help you and prayin’ won’t do you no good!”

Cryin’ and prayin’ won’t help if the GOP keeps on passing bills like their tax “reform” package. In lieu of what is by now a familiar rant about the dastardly GOP and the increasingly erratic President Trump, here’s an updated cartoon by the late Jack Ziegler I found on Twitter that says it all well most of it.

Altered Ziegler found on Twitter
Altered Ziegler found on Twitter

Here’s more on Jack Ziegler and the unaltered version of the cartoon.

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original text

National forecast: privatization and chance of shady deals

In the torrent of horrific appointments coming out of the Trump administration it is easy to miss specifics that wash by. Allgov.com, for those brave enough to face them all, regularly posts an up-to-date list of Trump appointments.

Among the most recent batch: Seema Verma, who has been tagged by Trump as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Health and Human Services (HHS); William Beach was named Commissioner of Labor Statistics part of the Department of Labor (DOL); and Bruce Lee Myers will be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department under Wilbur Ross, recently alleged to have business ties to Russians close to Vladimir Putin.

Prior to her appointment as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma redesigned Indiana’s healthcare program for former Governor now Vice President Mike Pence. Under her Healthy Indiana Plan the state’s care rating went from the 33rd healthiest state nationwide (bad) to 41st (worse). Part of the re-organization was removing people from Medicaid eligibility if they didn’t contribute to health care savings accounts.

At the Dept. of Labor, recently appointed Commissioner for Labor Statistics William Beach was formerly the longtime president of the Koch-brother-funded Institute for Humane Studies (“called a haven for climate change deniers”) and more recently was at the right–wing think tank Heritage Foundation. There he advocated abandoning Social Security and supported privatization of retirement in financial markets. During the Great Recession he favored cutting unemployment benefits.

forecastNOAAThe first two of these far-from-qualified appointees embody the kind of bumbling incompetence and/or extreme ideology we’ve come to expect from this administration. But for pure self-serving grifting potential it may be hard to beat the appointment of AccuWeather CEO Bruce Lee Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA operates as part of the Commerce Department and runs the National Weather Service.  Under normal circumstances this conflicted appointment might attract substantial attention, but given the thick  fog of questionable ethics engulfing President Trump it hardly receives the kind of notice it deserves.

Allgov.com reports: [… Bruce] Myers was executive vice president and general counsel for AccuWeather. In 2007, Barry took his brother’s place as chief executive officer of the company.

The Myers brothers for years financially supported Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). In 2005, Santorum introduced a bill that would have restricted NWS [the National Weather Service] from providing regular weather reports to the public. Instead, it would reserve the taxpayer-funded product of NWS for use by companies such as AccuWeather. Santorum’s bill was not passed.

In 2014, AccuWeather made a deal with the Chinese government to disseminate weather information there for 20 years. The agreement was made after Chinese hackers were accused of having accessed into NOAA’s computers to disrupt satellite data dissemination.

AccuWeather has been critical of the Weather Service and Myers has made no secret his desire to privatize all or parts of the weather service for profit. Congress recently passed and Trump signed legislation that should speed that process along. The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 has provisions to expand and pursue pilot programs to use and coordinate commercial data options and private-sector weather solutions among various federal government weather stakeholders.

So thanks to Trump and the GOP Congress it looks like the sun (and our tax dollars) may soon be shining down on for-profit private-satellite operators like Bruce Lee Myer’s family business AccuWeather. Who says you can’t control the weather (or at least control access to crucial weather information)?miamiclimatech

The question is whether the USA can survive the blatant conversion of government resources to inform and enrich the President’s friends. Those folks must have very deep storm cellar-bunkers many hundreds of miles from major sources of water  as well as their own private line to what will become secret government disaster warning information. Duct tape and plastic isn’t going to help as climate change drowns Miami.