Tag Archives: federal

Don’t Blame Oroville on Environmentalists

Mother Jones

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Victor Davis Hanson is a native Californian who hates California because it’s become too brown and too liberal. Today he takes to the LA Times to use the Oroville Dam disaster as a way of riding all his usual hobbyhorses:

The poor condition of the dam is almost too good a metaphor for the condition of the state as a whole; its possible failure is a reflection of California’s civic decline.

….The dam was part of the larger work of a brilliant earlier generation of California planners and lawmakers….The water projects created cheap and clean hydroelectric power…ensured that empty desert acreage on California’s dry west side of the Central Valley could be irrigated…spectacular growth in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles Basin.

….Yet the California Water Project and federal Central Valley Project have been comatose for a half-century….Necessary improvements to Oroville Dam, like reinforced concrete spillways, were never finished….A new generation of Californians — without much memory of floods or what unirrigated California was like before its aqueducts — had the luxury to envision the state’s existing water projects in a radically new light: as environmental errors….Indeed, pressures mounted to tear down rather than build dams. The state — whose basket of income, sales and gas taxes is among the highest in the country — gradually shifted its priorities from the building and expansion of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, bridges and highways to redistributionist social welfare programs, state employee pensions and an enormous penal archipelago.

LOL. The reason the Oroville Dam wasn’t upgraded ten years ago is because all those salt-of-the-earth farmers that Davis admires didn’t want to pay for the upgrades via higher water rates. Here’s the San Jose Mercury News:

Environmentalists noted Friday that they had tried in 2005 to persuade the federal government to require the state to cover the emergency spillway with concrete. But the agency that was relicensing the dam, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, declined after opposition from the state Department of Water Resources and the State Water Contractors, a group of 27 water agencies who were concerned about the cost.

Hanson should have listened to his initial instincts: the Oroville Dam is too good a metaphor for the condition of the state as a whole:

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Don’t Blame Oroville on Environmentalists

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Foreigners Are Fleeing From Treasury Bonds, But It’s Probably Not Trump’s Fault

Mother Jones

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Bloomberg reports that foreigners are tripping over themselves to unload their holdings of US treasuries:

In the age of Trump, America’s biggest foreign creditors are suddenly having second thoughts about financing the U.S. government.

….From Tokyo to Beijing and London, the consensus is clear: few overseas investors want to step into the $13.9 trillion U.S. Treasury market right now. Whether it’s the prospect of bigger deficits and more inflation under President Donald Trump or higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve, the world’s safest debt market seems less of a sure thing — particularly after the upswing in yields since November. And then there is Trump’s penchant for saber rattling, which has made staying home that much easier.

….Combined with the unpredictability of Trump’s tweet storms, interest-rate increases in the U.S. could further sap overseas demand….Right now, it’s just “much easier to stay home than go abroad,” said Shyam Rajan, Bank of America’s head of U.S. rates strategy.

Hmmm. The age of Trump? According to the Treasury Department, the selloff started in June:

Preliminary figures from Japan suggest that December will be much the same as November, which means foreigners will have sold off nearly a half-trillion dollars worth of treasuries in six months. That’s 7 percent of their total holdings. The only other time there’s been a selloff this sustained was at the tail end of the dotcom boom.

But is it Trump’s fault? Nobody thought he had a chance of winning until November, so it’s hard to see how he could have caused uneasiness with federal debt back in June. I don’t imagine Trump has done the US debt market any favors, but on this score, at least, I suspect he’s getting more blame than he deserves.

Continued here:  

Foreigners Are Fleeing From Treasury Bonds, But It’s Probably Not Trump’s Fault

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We Put People In Prison For Way Too Long

Mother Jones

If you want to talk about mass incarceration, here’s the most important fact to know: 90 percent of all American inmates are kept in state and local prisons. Unless you have some specific reason, you should pretty much ignore all statistics about the federal prison system.

This is not Keith Humphreys’ main point in his Wonkblog post today about mass incarceration, but it might as well be. If you look at state lockups, here’s the basic data for why most folks are incarcerated:

Drug offenses make up only about 15 percent of the total inmate population. And since it’s common to plea down to a minor drug offense from a more serious offense, even this probably overstates the number of people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses. So if we want to reduce the prison population, decriminalizing drugs won’t make much of a dent. Instead, we need to focus on our response to violent crime:

In the eyes of many politicians, activists and most of the voting public, tough punishment of nonviolent drug offenders is the main driver of mass incarceration in general and disproportionate imprisonment of people of color in particular. But in his new book “Locked In,” criminologist John Pfaff challenges that assumption, attributing mass incarceration primarily to violent crime and the public policy response to it.

….Given the outsize role of violent crime in mass imprisonment, what should be done about it? Pfaff favors “cutting long sentences for people convicted of violence, even for those with extensive criminal histories, since almost everyone starts aging out of crime by their 30s.” He also advocates for relying less on prison altogether and expanding community-based anti-violence programs that have strong evidence of preventing violence in the first place.

Our main reaction to the violent crime wave of the 70s and 80s was not just to lock up more people, but to lock them up longer. A lot longer. However, there’s little evidence that longer sentences do much to deter crime, and as Pfaff says, once prisoners get into their 30s there’s not much evidence that keeping them locked up prevents very much crime. My horseback guess (I haven’t read Pfaff’s book) is that we could cut the average sentence for violent crimes in half and it would have only a minor effect on crime rates. Partly this is because we overshot the sweet spot for reducing crime by a lot in the 70s and 80s, and partly it’s because criminals these days aren’t as violent as they were in the past.1

Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest lifts in all of politics. Even now, no one wants to be “soft on crime,” and it’s inevitable that if we did reduce sentences, some of the prisoners would go out and commit more crimes. All you need is a few examples of that to run some devastating TV ads, and there’s no question that these examples would be out there. Pfaff has the right idea, but it’s unlikely to get an audience anytime soon.

1Yes, because of reduced lead poisoning. Really.

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We Put People In Prison For Way Too Long

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Sean Spicer Imagines Coretta Scott King Would Change Her Mind About Jeff Sessions

Mother Jones

Amid mounting outrage over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as she read Coretta Scott King’s 1968 letter opposing the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions’ to the federal bench, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday said he “respectfully disagreed” with the assessment by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow that Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, was a threat to civil rights.

“Like the late Arlen Specter,” Spicer said, “I can only hope that if she was still with us today, that after getting to know him and to see his record and his commitment to voting and civil rights,” she would have agreed with Specter when he said he regretted his vote to kill Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship decades before.

“I would hope that if she was still with us today,” Spicer continued, “she would share that sentiment.”

The remarks were swiftly mocked on social media, with many slamming Spicer for appearing to recast King’s views on civil rights and Sessions’ controversial record on the issue.

Warren was forced to stop reading from King’s letter, in which she accused Sessions of using his office to “chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” Tuesday night after McConnell invoked an arcane rule prohibiting senators from impugning one another. The incident sparked widespread protest among Democrats, who in turn used it as further evidence against President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general.

Spicer’s statement on King came shortly after he angrily defended the president’s anti-terror raid in Yemen in January in which civilians and a Navy SEAL were killed. He suggested anyone who questioned the success of the mission was doing a “disservice” to the Navy SEAL killed in the mission.

When asked if his comments included Sen. John McCain, who previously described the raid as a “failure,” Spicer replied that the message was for “anybody.”

Original article – 

Sean Spicer Imagines Coretta Scott King Would Change Her Mind About Jeff Sessions

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Some Random Morning Trump Stuff

Mother Jones

Well, it’s morning for me, anyway. First up, under headlines you never thought you’d see:

That’s from the LA Times last night. Here’s another headline from Reuters:

Conveniently, this means that the current “Countering Violent Extremism” program will no longer target white supremacist groups. It’s good to see that Trump is demonstrating some loyalty to the groups that supported him so faithfully throughout the election. They’ve been harassed too much by the federal jackboots already, amirite?

Next up, we’re learning more details about President Trump’s Great Southern Wall:

In one of the Star Trek movies, Scotty uses an Apple Macintosh to whip up the formula for transparent aluminum. Maybe that’s what this is! A wall you can see through! Sadly, though, the truth turns out to be less futuristic: the “transparent wall” will be a non-wall. That is to say, it will be “sensors and other technology,” just like it is now. This, of course, is what wall enthusiasts have been bitching about forever. When Trump said he’d build a wall, they wanted a wall, dammit, not a bunch of namby-pamby sensors.

Finally, here is today’s Gallup poll on what Americans think of Trump’s recent executive orders:

It’s heartening to see that a majority of Americans disapprove of his Muslim ban (by 13 points) and the suspension of the Syrian refugee program (by 22 points). Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

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Some Random Morning Trump Stuff

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