By Their Works Shall Ye Know Them

With Trump and his Trumpkins — aka the entire Republican power structure — the extremes of grotesque behavior serve a purpose: in the disgust they evoke, they distract us from the point of the whole exercise.  That would be, of course, extracting as much cash as possible through the exercise of arbitrary power.

Today’s example — actually, now about a week old — comes from griftmonger supreme Scott Pruitt.  All the grandiose corruption, stiffing aids for hotel rooms, buying a Maxwell Smart cone of silence, unobtanium-infused skin cream and the rest was the sizzle. The steak was wrecking the environment at the behest of one corporate master or another.  This was true to the bitter end:

In his last act as EPA Administrator on Friday, Scott Pruitt vacated an Obama-era ruling that dramatically restricted sales of polluting “glider” trucks.

What are glider trucks, you may ask? (I did.)  Do they serve any useful social purpose?

You be the judge:

The glider trucks, led by manufacturer Fitzgerald Glider Kits, are new truck bodies and frames fitted with old, diesel engines that pre-date emissions controls.

Those engines emit as much as 43 times the carcinogenic particulate matter and 13 times as much smog-forming nitrogen oxides as modern diesel truck engines. In the presence of sunlight, nitrogen oxides form smog, which has been linked to asthma.

The whole thing was a scam, exploiting a loophole that was supposed to allow the reuse of new engines if a rig was totalled, but instead installing pre-2007, high polluting engines in new truck bodies.

Pruitt used a debunked and then retracted study that claimed the highly polluting engines were somehow magically transformed into cleaner ones in their new clothes in a move that bars the EPA from enforcing the Obama-era rules this year and next.

I’m not sure exactly what Pruitt’s profit-center is here, given that everyone — and I mean everyone — hates these things.

Manufacturers such as Virginia-based heavy-truck maker Volvo, Illinois-based Navistar, and Cummins, which makes diesel engines in Indiana, all opposed Pruitt’s efforts to keep the loophole open, as did UPS, which buys thousands of long-haul trucks. Name-brand truck and engine makers have invested millions in developing the cleaner engine technology.

“I cannot recall an issue with such a breadth of opposition,” Paul Billings, national senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association told the Washington Post.

Was this simply bidnezz–some quid pro quo between Pruitt and the one truck company making a buck of these shit-spewing rigs? Or was this just one last f**k you to liberals on the way out?

I guess it could be both, or rather, it was certainly the latter, plus whatever personal corruption Pruitt was able to extract from the deal.  But my point (and I do have one, besides generalized disgust and impotent rage) is that this his how Trump’s administration rolls, and it’s exactly as the Republican Party and its paymasters intended it to.

While the gaudy scandals dominate our attention and most of the media effort, the executive departments and agencies are keeping very busy, creating or gutting rules, making decisions, operating almost completely unexamined, in ways that transfer wealth to the chosen few, and risk and consequences to everyone else.

I’m not sure there’s a shovel big enough to clean manure pile these assholes are depositing in our stable.

Pace Adam:  I’m doing a really crappy job staying frosty these days.

Open thread.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the main reading room, Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 1896



Open thread

Open thread



REPUBS IN DISARRAY! Open Thread: George Conway Is Losing His Faith

The first time I went looking for a picture of George Conway,, the NYTimes showed him as a literal coatholder — a guy, it seemed, who couldn’t get over his luck.

Some of the shine seems to have worn off over the last twelve months, quite possibly because Conway is a good enough lawyer to understand just how much legal jeopardy the Oval Office Occupant is putting his minions into:

Friends say he was proud of Kellyanne, the longtime Republican operative who was finally running the show, and the evening routine allowed him to grab some one-on-one time with his busier half. On election night, he cried, and noted to other campaign aides that as the first female campaign manager of a winning presidential bid, his wife had made history.

Over the past year, however, since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department, George Conway has become a man in turmoil. A serious, conservative attorney who believes in the rule of law, he has been torn, people who know him say, between the loyalty he feels toward his wife and an assault on his profession and his ideals that he did not anticipate when he cheered on election night—delivered by her boss.

During that period, he has walked away from a powerful job running the Justice Department’s civil division, where he would have served as one of the administration’s top lawyers. And he has become a Twitter phenom—tweeting and retweeting critiques of the president and support for the Mueller probe that his wife’s employer calls a “witch hunt.” Many in the White House have noticed, including Kellyanne and, according to multiple administration officials, the president himself.

The pushback coming from inside the house of Trump’s lead cable-news defender has become one of Washington’s favorite family dramas. In “Conway versus Conway,” George attacks the president, or seems to defend the Mueller probe, while Kellyanne puts her own credibility on the line to defend Trump, who has escalated his verbal assaults on the Russia inquiry and this week even demanded an investigation of the investigation…

Not often I find myself in sympathy with a semi-professional Repub, but I’d be happy too if George’s spouse comes to her senses and leaves Trump behind. If she drops out of politics entirely (if only because the Trump taint has made her unemployable), that wouldn’t damage her status to me, either.



The DOE Announces Plans For Pit Production

The Department of Energy has been contemplating the future production of nuclear weapon pits – the fissile part of the weapon, usually plutonium. Rocky Flats, between Golden and Boulder, Colorado, used to do it, but it turned into an environmental disaster. All buildings have been removed from the site.

Los Alamos and Savannah River are the only two DOE sites that can work with plutonium. Both put themselves into the running for the task. Both have had some problems with safely handling the stuff, for example. The decision was announced today. Both were, in effect, selected.

This is the kind of bad decision that the DOE has long made. It avoids the political problems that would come with selecting one site or the other. The congressional delegations of both states will be pleased. To be fair, there are people with expertise at these sites and facilities that can be used or upgraded.

And they will need to be upgraded. Whether the funds will be appropriated and whether they will turn out to be adequate when the plans are fully worked out is another question, one that has been answered very poorly by both the DOE and Congress in the past.

The evidence seems to be that pits last a longish time, perhaps up to a century. We have several thousand nuclear weapons, more than we are ever likely to need.

Carson Mark, a Los Alamos weapons physicist, once proposed that we simply let all the tritium, a radioactive component of thermonuclear weapons, decay and not replace it as a partial step toward disarmament. The way the US is going, it looks like something similar is happening with the capability to build nuclear weapons. Russia is keeping its capacity going and is not in a friendly mood to talk about just letting it all go. But I would love to see the US just say F***it, we’re done, and see how that plays.

 

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner.



Another Chemical Attack

It looks like Bashir al-Assad dropped another bunch of chemicals on civilians in East Ghouta again today. Horrible photos of the dead are circulating on Twitter. It’s not clear whether this was Sarin or chlorine, or Assad’s trademark mixture of the two. Early reports are that over 100 people have been killed.

It is exactly a year ago today that Donald Trump sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria to respond to a similar chemical attack.

There’s a continuing argument among strategists about deterrence. One side says that if you whack someone like Assad hard enough, he won’t do it again. The other says that Assad will choose to do what is best for him strategically and take his lumps if necessary, or take the chance that there won’t be retribution. I tend toward the second

It’s that argument that continues around Barack Obama’s “red line” for Syrian chemical weapons use. One side says that taking the deal to disarm Syria of most of its chemical weapons instead of whacking Assad led to the belief that Obama was soft, hence Putin’s incursion into Ukraine and all other evils since then. I think that putting aside a strike that would have killed more civilians and been far from taking out all the chemical warfare facilities in favor of peacefully removing most of the chemical weapons was a sign of good judgment.

And, contrary to some of what I’m seeing in response to Assad’s strike today, nobody expected that every single drop of chemical agent would be removed from Syria. But most of it was, and the facilities for making more disabled.

 



Loving You Both Is Breaking All the Rules

I think some of you nerds like science fiction. I do too. Let me weave a dystopian tapestry before your wondering eyes and you can tell me what you think.

The year is 2020. There are now flying cars and cheeky robot companions. You have neither of these things. You have a slightly fancier phone and a couple of new shirts.

Your state’s primary has been pushed to the end of the season and its outcome will be pivotal. Democratic primary voters have said they will not go to Cochella. They will not go to Bonaroo. They won’t even go to Lollapalooza. The voters in the other 49 states have proclaimed that they want Paul Revere and the Raiders or The American Breed. This tortured analogy is trying to tell you they want Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.

Let’s say that Joe has stayed his course  as the WWWC (Wooer of the White Working Class) candidate. Bernie has staked out the leftmost pragmatic position on all of your favorites: Healthcare, education, minimum wage, full employment.

And there you are, in the voting booth. Between Scylla and Charybdis. For whom do you pull the lever?

While you muse on this bummer episode of The Twilight Zone, please observe what I have in my other hand: It’s the fund that’s split between all eventual Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.

Goal Thermometer



Apocalypse Very Soon

Via Alexander C. Kaufman at HuffPo, we learn that the EPA has decided that we’ve all just got to sit back and fry — and like it too, dammit:

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening sent employees a list of eight approved talking points on climate change from its Office of Public Affairs ― guidelines that promote a message of uncertainty about climate science and gloss over proposed cuts to key adaptation programs.

Here a couple of samples of the new guidance:

“Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner,” one point reads. “The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

The other states: “While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”

It’s clear enough what Scott Pruitt’s and Donald Trump’s EPA thinks we should do about the global test-to-destruction experiment on which we are now engaged.  F**k-all.  Hades here we come.
As Eric Levitz at New York magazine reminds us, this actually isn’t the limit of GOP and Trump climate sabotage:

It would be bleak enough if these talking points were an accurate reflection of our government’s position on climate change. “We will do nothing to stop this calamity from happening, but will help you prepare for its onset” isn’t the most uplifting sentiment. But the Trump administration’s actual position on the matter is even worse.

In truth, Scott Pruitt’s EPA is about as opposed to helping communities prepare for climate catastrophe as it is to regulating carbon emissions: Last year, the EPA shut down its climate-adaptation program, and proposed funding cuts* to another initiative dedicated to studying the effects of rising sea levels. [links in the original]

Again, as Levitz points out, unchecked climate change will (and almost certainly has already) kill a lot of people. Which is to say this isn’t garden valley Republican robbery of most of us to serve the interests of our former Secretary of State and his ilk.  Reckless doesn’t begin to describe what the GOP in general and the current administration in particular are doing to the planet, and to Americans’ well being, safety and security.

The climate change debacle is not only down to the United States, of course. But nowhere else has the power that we do to shift international action on this.  We’re doing the opposite, and the FSM knows how high the bill will go.

On that note: top of the evening to the jackals. Open thread, y’all

*Most of the cuts were undone in the omni-budget bill, but if we have a minor respite from environmental despoilation, it’s not thanks to Trump and Pruitt.

Image: D. Howard Hitchcock, Halemaumau, Lake of Fire, 1888