Open Thread: C’mon, Stein’s Law…

Professor Krugman, back in 2003:

Academic economists often cite Stein’s Law, a principle enunciated by the late Herbert Stein, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Nixon administration. The law comes with various wordings; my favorite is: ‘‘Things that can’t go on forever, don’t.’‘…

Meanwhile, for entertainment purposes only:

You could say the Trump era began with an anonymous quote. “It will take a miracle for us to win,” an unnamed senior campaign adviser told CNN on election night. Steve Bannon suspected the source was Kellyanne Conway, according to Joshua Green’s book Devil’s Bargain, and the tell was that CNN went out of its way to avoid using gendered pronouns, a giveaway because Conway was the only woman on Trump’s senior staff…

While politicos have long used the anonymous quote to air policy disagreements and leak sensitive information they believe voters should know, Donald Trump’s Washington opts for anonymity as a cheap and easy form of exoneration, a way to telegraph to the world: Yes, we know that our boss is crazy and dangerous. And yet they preen and simper in Trump’s presence. Worse still, they dutifully push his agenda forward.

They are identified here only by the title assigned to them by Beltway reporters. What emerges from this anonymous stew is an ongoing record of the Republican failure to speak up in public, while the president wreaks havoc both here and abroad. It is a story about a rotting GOP, as told by the greatest cowards of the Trump era…

Open Thread: Heck of A PR Job, Repubs!

By the time this posts, Trump will probably have said some equally infuriating, hateful things about the mass casualty event in Las Vegas. But still

Even the Mad Bitcher is getting an uncomfortable sensation in his exquisitely tuned antennae!

It’s not just “optics”…

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Sunday Night Horrowshow Open Thread: As American As A Burning Cross

MSNBC finds a way to phrase the GOP problem… delicately:

There are five counties in the state of Alabama where more than 30 percent of the 25-and-over population has a college degree, according to the U.S. Census. Strange won three of those counties and did so fairly convincingly, by about 8 points, 54.1 percent – 45.9 percent.

But the rest of state went against the sitting senator and the margins for him got worse as the percentage of those with a college education dropped.

There are two counties where the college education rates were between 25 percent and 30 percent. Moore won those counties by about 6 points, 53.2 percent – 46.8 percent. The rest of the counties have fewer than 25 percent of the population with a degree. Moore won them by more than 18 points, 59.2 percent – 40.8 percent.

Those education numbers have a special significance when you look at the Republican Senate seats that are up in 2018. In eight of them, all but Utah, the college-educated population numbers are below 30 percent, which is roughly the national average.

The Alabama results suggest the Republican voters in those states may be ready for a more populist, anti-establishment candidate — one that would challenge the incumbent and pull him or her toward the more populist end of the GOP.

To be clear, these college education figures aren’t solely about education, they are about people living in different economic and cultural worlds…

In other words: “We’re not gonna spell it out, but there’s a genuine fear among the people who make a living off the GOP that it’s turning into the house brand for ignorant rubes who’ve never had to meet anyone they weren’t related to.”

(And, of course, they’re heavily armed.)

Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Charlie (Rose) & the Shambling Bannon

Let’s just say, this interview did nothing to dissuade me from the impression that Bannon is an old-fashioned Irish mucker… one who’s measuring the collapse of his liver against the collapse of civilization, and doing his best to make it a photo finish.

Bad news, he’s got the Mercers eating out of his greasy palm, and they’re as nihilistic as Bannon but without the almost-human touches. Slightly less bad news, right now Bannon’s more interested in punishing the not-Trump Repubs than he is in destroying Democrats, and I can’t find it in my heart to feel sorry for anyone in the GOP.
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Open Thread: More Like A Murder-Suicide Plot…

Interesting sociological argument, via valued commentor O. Felix Culpa. At USAToday, Robert P. Jones, author of The End of White Christian America, says “Fading white evangelicals have made a desperate end-of-life bargain with Trump”:

The key to understanding the puzzling white evangelical/Trump alliance is grasping the large-scale changes — most prominently the declining numbers of white Christians in the country — that have transformed the American religious landscape over the last decade. These tectonic shifts are detailed in a new report Wednesday by the Public Research and Religion Institute, which I direct. Based on interviews with over 101,000 Americans in 2016, the American Values Atlas is the largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted…

…[O]ne of the most important findings of the survey is that over the last decade — as the country has crossed the threshold from being a majority white Christian country to a minority white Christian country — white evangelical Protestants have themselves succumbed to the prevailing winds and in turn contributed to a second wave of white Christian decline in the country. Over the last decade, white evangelical Protestants have declined from 23% to 17% of all Americans. To put this into perspective, during this same period, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans has grown from 16% to 24%.

The engines of white evangelical decline are complex, but they are a combination of external factors, such as demographic change in the country as a whole, and internal factors, such as religious disaffiliation, particularly among younger adults who find themselves at odds with conservative Christian churches on issues like climate change and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. As a result, the median age of white evangelical Protestants is now 55, while the median age of religiously unaffiliated Americans is 37. While 26% of seniors (ages 65 and older) are white evangelicals, only 8% of Americans under the age of 30 claim this identity.

The evangelical alliance with Trump can only be understood in the context of these fading vital signs among white evangelicals. They are, in many ways, a community grieving its losses. After decades of equating growth with divine approval, white evangelicals today are finding themselves on the losing side of demographic changes and LGBT rights, one of their founding and flagship issues. In the 1980s, a term like “the moral majority” had a certain plausibility; today, such a sweeping claim would be met with a mountain of counter-evidence from public opinion polls, progressive religious voices, changing laws and court decisions.

Thinking about white evangelicals as a grieving community opens up new ways of understanding their behavior. Drawing on her interactions with dying patients and their families in the 1960s, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified at least five common “stages” of grief, which have become staples of understanding responses to loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As Kübler-Ross found, when the stubborn facts of one’s own demise don’t yield to denial or anger, people commonly attempt to make a grand deal to postpone the inevitable.

While there are some lingering pockets of denial, and anger was an all-too-visible feature of Trump’s campaign, thinking about the white evangelical/Trump alliance as an end-of-life bargain is illuminating. It helps explain, for example, how white evangelical leaders could ignore so many problematic aspects of Trump’s character. When the stakes are high enough and the sun is setting, grand bargains are struck. And it is in the nature of these deals that they are marked not by principle, but by desperation…

“If we can’t be in charge, let’s burn the world down.”

The Entire Southeastern Portion of Texas Reimagined as a Superfund Site

This will end well:

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included blasts and “black smoke” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

While local officials described the blasts early Thursday at the plant in Crosby as “chemical reactions” and not “massive explosions,” federal authorities used dire language to describe the impact of the fumes from the plant.

The chemical plume in Crosby is “incredibly dangerous,” William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing Thursday morning. But the Harris County sheriff, Ed Gonzalez, claimed whatever fumes were released were “not anything toxic” — raising baffling questions about the level of danger even as authorities sealed off surrounding areas and imposed a no-fly zone over the plant.

We may actually be looking at a situation where a large portion of the flooded areas is simply uninhabitable for decades to come. And it’s not like this was unknown, as this ProPublica piece from 2016 demonstrates:

Thousands of cylindrical storage tanks line the sides of the narrow Houston Ship Channel. Some are as small as residential propane tanks, others as big as the average 2-story house.

Inside them sits one of the world’s largest concentrations of oil, gases and chemicals — all key to fueling the American economy, but also, scientists fear, a disaster waiting to happen.

Hundreds of thousands of people live in industrial towns clustered around the Ship Channel, in the path of Houston’s perfect storm. And if flooding causes enough of what’s inside the storage containers to leak at even one industrial facility nearby, scientists say, the damage could be far-reaching.

A chemical release could fuel an explosion or fire, potentially imperiling industrial facilities and nearby homes and businesses. Nearly 300,000 people live in residential areas identified by one scientist as particularly at risk to a chemical or oil spill.

And if hazardous material spills into the Ship Channel and ends up in Galveston Bay, it could harm one of the region’s most productive estuaries and a national ecological treasure.

“It will be an environmental disaster right up there with the BP oil spill,” said Phil Bedient, who co-directs the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice University.

What companies keep in many of the storage facilities on the Ship Channel and what measures they take to protect them is difficult to pin down, both for national security reasons and to maintain trade secrets. That leaves scientists and advocates unsure of the true risk. But virtually all would agree the government standards and regulations in place would not protect against major oil and chemical spills if a monster storm were to hit.

Industry groups said they take hurricanes seriously and don’t deny they are at risk. They said that’s why the region needs a coastal barrier system.

“Hurricanes are devastating meteorological events, and when they hit … they will cause massive impact all over the Gulf Coast,” said Craig Beskid, executive director of the East Harris County Manufacturers Association, which represents ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and other major companies that operate 130 facilities in the area.

And the government knew. The federal government has been working since 1993 to craft a plan, but nothing has happened because JOBS and FREE MARKET and EVIL REGULATIONS:

A draft executive order (pdf) obtained by E&E would toughen a 1977 directive by President Carter that was seen then as a landmark step establishing a federal leadership role in floodplain management.

But since devastating Midwest floods in 1993, disaster-management experts have been calling for a revision of federal floodplain policies, saying agencies have failed to consistently comply with rules written in the wake of Carter’s order.

“You still go out and find post offices being built in floodplains,” said Larry Larson, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. “Where’s the cheapest land? It’s in the high-hazard area.”

President Obama’s draft order would direct agencies to use non-structural approaches — typically, building codes, planning laws and eduction campaigns — to manage floodplains and protect public safety, wetlands and other natural resources, rather than build levees and dams.

The order would also bar federal agencies from supporting “critical” facilities — such as hospitals, police stations, power plants or evacuation centers — in 500-year floodplains, unless no alternative exists.

And we did nothing. Because freedumb.

Also, I have spare bedrooms if you know anyone from Houston who needs a place to stay. It’s not ideal, because it is in WV, but maybe some young folks who just don’t want to rebuild and want to relocate could set up base camp here before starting a new life in the midwest or northeast.

BTW- just kidding about Texas becoming a Superfund site. The Trump administration’s budget proposal guts funding for them and the EPA is led by a guy who thinks crude oil is one of the five basic food groups. So maybe not a Superfund site, but the scene of Fallout 5.

Kelly vs. Gorka: “Kill A Chicken to Frighten the Monkeys”

… which is an old Chinese proverb meaning ‘Eliminate a minor figure to keep the outside agitators in line”. Consensus seems to be that John Kelly, in his new role as Gatekeeper, pushed Gorka out to show the Breitbrats he’s gonna do his utmost to protect Lord Smallgloves from himself. Best summary I’ve seen, from the Washington Post:

Sebastian Gorka, a controversial White House staffer who served as a fiery spokesman for President Trump on national security matters, abruptly left the administration on Friday as his nationalist faction was being silenced, four people briefed on Gorka’s exit confirmed.

Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, is a close ally of former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who departed the White House last week. Together they saw their roles as enabling and promoting the president’s combative populism and revolutionary impulses.

Although Trump enjoyed watching his cable television appearances, in which he performed like a pit bull and taunted many news anchors for peddling what he and the president deemed “fake news,” Gorka had run afoul of many of his colleagues, including some on the National Security Council who considered him a fringe figure.

Officials said it was widely known that White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who has been restructuring the West Wing to stem infighting and chaos within the staff, was eager for Gorka to depart the administration.

While Gorka publicly released a resignation letter expressing his displeasure with the changes that he felt left his faction silenced, two White House officials insisted Gorka did not resign but rather was forced out. A third White House official said the “writing was on the wall” that Kelly wanted Gorka to leave…

Now, way back on Thursday (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago?) Politico, Axios, and the NYTimes each published upbeat stories about how Gen. Kelly was gonna bring Marine-style discipline to this sloppy, disorganized, overweight White House, hoo rah!

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