scharrison's blog

Trump White House: A culture of unethical behavior

It doesn't take a year to fill out financial disclosure forms:

A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, records show five of his top staffers still have not secured final approval of their financial reports — disclosures that are required by law to ensure Americans that these senior officials aren’t personally benefiting from their White House jobs. Another four staffers received certification by the Office of Government Ethics after McClatchy first requested their forms last month.

The delay is likely due to Trump staffers either refusing to disclose mandated information to OGE, failing to resolve a conflict of interest or violating an ethics law or regulation, according to two ethics experts familiar with the long-standing process.

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, personally profits from government actions it helps facilitate like a duck, it's probably a corrupt duck. While a U.S. President (is supposed to) provide a leadership example for the rest of the world, he (or she) also provides an example to Cabinet and staff. And apparently Trump's example is, "We are above the law, and we can do whatever the hell we want." Here are a few of the more questionable violators:

Polluters and environmentalists in NC form questionable joint lobbying group

Purportedly to better conserve natural resources:

NC Forever appears to invite the lambs to lie down with the lions: Environmental Defense Fund, NC Coastal Federation and Audubon Society of North Carolina, plus several parks nonprofits, are joining groups with dubious environmental histories: global pork producer Smithfield Foods, agribusiness advocates the NC Farm Bureau, mining and quarrying company Martin Marietta, and the NC Forestry Association, which represents primarily the interests of the timber industry.

Nonetheless, the nonprofit plans to lobby state lawmakers to appropriate much-needed money to conservation programs, such as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which have sustained major cuts over the past seven years. From 2000 to 2017, state appropriations to the trust fund have declined by more than half, from $40 million to $18 million.

Go and read the whole article. Lisa Sorg has once again delved deeply into an issue, answering most of the questions I had yet to formulate. But that still leaves me with these important questions: What good (net benefit) will we achieve in increasing state funding (taxpayer monies) to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to *attempt* to mitigate water pollution, while we allow massive CAFOs like Smithfield to continually pollute our water? What net benefit will we achieve by purchasing 1,000 acres of woodlands for conservation, while tens of thousands of acres are clear-cut by the wood pellet industry to fuel Europe's wood-burning boondoggle that's supposed to be "renewable" energy? It appears this group is the brainchild of Smithfield Foods, patterned after their Virginia version:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke's attorneys go on the attack as hearings wind down

coalashseeps.jpg

Also claiming unlined pits were once considered a "feature" and not recklessly negligent:

Duke Energy blasted its opponents in a final regulatory filing Friday, saying they leaned on "simplistic crutches," false analysis and a Pollyanna hindsight to argue against the company's bid to raise electricity rates enough to cover clean up costs at the company's coal ash ponds.

The company complied with existing laws and industry standards when it left wet ash in unlined pits for decades, they said. At one point "the lack of a liner was considered a feature, rather than a flaw" because soil would filter out contaminants, the company said. Impact on groundwater wasn't initially a concern "because the ash basins were built more than a decade before the adoption of any federal or state regulation related to groundwater corrective action," attorneys argued.

Here's a quick primer for those who may not be aware how environmental statutes and regulations come into being: There is (or has been) usually a period of 10-20 years where contamination is discovered, investigated, then viciously fought-over in civil court, before the demands for government regulation grow to the point some rule or law is put into place to stop it. And during that pre-regulation phase, you can be damned sure attorneys for companies like Duke Energy were well aware of what was going on, and what needed to be done to improve those impoundments. Luckily for us, Josh Stein isn't drinking their arsenic-tainted Kool-Aid, and his legal opposition is definitely not pro-forma:

Court rejects NC Republicans' request for "Stay" on gerrymandering order

Because doing what's right is never a burden:

Judges James A. Wynn, William L. Osteen and W. Earl Britt of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the lawmakers had failed to meet the “heavy burden” required to stay the order.

They found that the lawmakers' "motion does not dispute this court’s unanimous conclusions that” the map had resulted in partisan gerrymandering, and ordering that it be redrawn. The judges also found that staying the ruling would not injure the lawmakers, but “would substantially injure — indeed irreparably harm — Plaintiffs.”

In any sane world, Republicans would be seriously re-evaluating their affinity and reliance on bent redistricting to buttress their power. But instead, they're gearing up to bring their funky map-making skills to the Judicial Branch. They honestly have no shame.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Check off NC Senate District 45:

Still a lot of empty slots, folks. Keep working the Blue Wave.

On the dire need for an overhaul of Minimum Wage

Times have changed, for the worse:

Only one-in-five workers earning minimum wage are teenagers now, and about the same percentage of people are married. About 60 percent of workers earning minimum wage or less are working part-time, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work. Many want but can’t find full-time work.

Most of the others are constrained by child care, health problem, or school schedules from working more. If we think about those individuals who would see a benefit from an increase, the average worker is older, less likely to be working for discretionary income and more likely to be supporting a family.

Bolding mine. Not trying to insult your intelligence, but since I've had to explain the meaning of the word "discretionary" to college grads about six times in the last few years, I might as well do it again here. It dates back to the 14th Century, and denotes somebody has the power to "judge or choose" courses of action. Often tied with "age of ascension" in certain cultures granting adult status. But in this context, it means you have the freedom to decide how to spend the money you've earned. And when your rent, utilities, and food requirements outpace your earnings, that choice has already been made for you. I know that's long-winded, but I've heard too many Democrats parrot that "just for teenagers" meme lately when minimum wage comes up, and I wanted to drive a stake in that meme's heart. Something I've also heard, which makes sense on a certain level: "We need to bring back the EITC to give these folks a boost." Yes. But not as an alternative to a minimum wage increase. Why not? Because the EITC is taken from tax revenues, and not from the private-sector employer who *should* be paying better. And before you say that next thing:

The difficulties of getting young people engaged in political activism

Answering the question that has been circulating lately:

As Women's March organizers prepare for another round of events on Jan. 20 and 21, research shows that few young people share Hahn's excitement for political activism and public protests. Americans ages 15 to 24 are still figuring out their preferred approach to politics, according to the PRRI/MTV 2017 National Youth Survey, released this week.

"A majority of young people describe recent protests and marches negatively, as 'pointless' (16 percent), 'counterproductive' (16 percent), 'divisive' (12 percent), or 'violent' (11 percent.) Only about one-third ascribe positive value to them, saying they are 'inspiring' (16 percent), 'powerful' (16 percent), or 'effective' (4 percent)," the survey reported.

Some of these findings are not really surprising. As much as I hate to use the term "woke," that transformation did not really happen to me until I was in my forties. I may have voted regularly since my late teens, but my knowledge of what I was voting for (or against) was pretty thin, to say the least. At our County Party meeting last night, aside from a couple of small children, the youngest people there were in their thirties, and they were a distinct minority. But before we launch into a "What are we doing wrong?" exercise, it may be them and not us:

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