Tag Archives: office

Here’s how Trump could crush cheap solar.

This week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced a new initiative to combat climate change–augmented extreme heat in the city. It comes down to: Plant a tree! Make a palThose are actually not bad ideas. 

The $106 million package — dubbed Cool Neighborhoods NYC, which, yikes — will largely go to tree-planting across more heatwave-endangered communities in the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and Central Brooklyn. Funding will also further develop the unpronounceable NYC °CoolRoofs program, which aims to cover 2.7 million square feet of city roofs with foliage.

But, to me, the more noteworthy component of the plan is Be A Buddy NYC — again, yikes — which “promotes community cohesion” as a means of climate resilience.

“A heat emergency is not the time to identify vulnerable residents,” explains the Mayor’s Office’s report. “Rather, it is important to build social networks that can help share life-saving information prior to such an emergency, and can reach out to at-risk neighbors during an extreme heat event.”

The new policy supports the argument that this whole community engagement thing is a crucial tactic in the fight against climate change.

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Here’s how Trump could crush cheap solar.

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Can Angela Merkel hold the Paris Agreement together? The pope hopes so.

This week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced a new initiative to combat climate change–augmented extreme heat in the city. It comes down to: Plant a tree! Make a palThose are actually not bad ideas. 

The $106 million package — dubbed Cool Neighborhoods NYC, which, yikes — will largely go to tree-planting across more heatwave-endangered communities in the South Bronx, Northern Manhattan, and Central Brooklyn. Funding will also further develop the unpronounceable NYC °CoolRoofs program, which aims to cover 2.7 million square feet of city roofs with foliage.

But, to me, the more noteworthy component of the plan is Be A Buddy NYC — again, yikes — which “promotes community cohesion” as a means of climate resilience.

“A heat emergency is not the time to identify vulnerable residents,” explains the Mayor’s Office’s report. “Rather, it is important to build social networks that can help share life-saving information prior to such an emergency, and can reach out to at-risk neighbors during an extreme heat event.”

The new policy supports the argument that this whole community engagement thing is a crucial tactic in the fight against climate change.

Continued here:  

Can Angela Merkel hold the Paris Agreement together? The pope hopes so.

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Trump Is Waiving His Own Ethics Rules to Allow Lobbyists to Make Policy

Mother Jones

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It seems clear now why the Trump administration fought so hard to avoid making public the details of the waivers it granted to White House staffers who might otherwise have been in violation of the president’s self-imposed ethics rules. They show that President Donald Trump, who made “drain the swamp” a campaign battle cry, has enlisted numerous swamp-dwellers—former lobbyists, consultants, corporate executives—to staff key positions in his White House and has granted them broad exemptions to work on issues directly related to their former jobs and clients.

After repeatedly slamming DC lobbyists during the campaign, Trump used one of his first executive orders to lay out ethics rules for his new administration. The January 28 order barred Trump officials from working on issues related to their former employers for at least two years, and these rules applied not only to lobbyists, but to anyone who worked for a business or organization potentially affected by federal policy decisions. The prohibitions were not absolute: Waivers would be available in certain cases.

The Trump administration initially balked when the Office of Government Ethics demanded the White House hand over the waivers it had granted. But after a standoff the administration relented late Wednesday and released about 14 waivers covering White House staffers. They make clear that Trump’s ethics rules are remarkably flexible and that his top staffers don’t need to worry too much about staying on the right side of them. On paper, Trump’s rules are similar to those imposed by President Barack Obama, but it appears that Trump is far more willing to hand out exemptions. At this point in the Obama administration, just three White House staffers had been granted ethics waivers. So far, Trump has granted 14, including several that apply to multiple people.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and adviser Kellyanne Conway were both granted waivers to deal with issues involving their previous employers. In the case of Priebus, this narrowly applies to the Republican National Committee. But Conway is now free to work on issues involving her ex-clients from her previous life as an operative and pollster—clients that included political campaigns, nonprofit activist groups, and corporations.

Conway’s relationships with these clients were murky to begin with; she was never required to disclose who she worked for. We do know that she repped virulently anti-immigration and anti-Muslim groups. The names of some of her corporate clients also have trickled out, including Major League Baseball, Hasbro, American Express, and Boeing. The waiver may have been granted to help smooth the way for Conway after evidence emerged that she continued to operate own her polling and consulting company even after she’d gone to work in the White House—a possible violation of conflict-of-interest laws that drew the attention of congressional Democrats who have begun probing her relationship with the company.

Conway’s waiver was not retroactive, but there is another that specifically allows White House employees to communicate freely with former employers and coworkers at media organizations—and applies back to January 20. Trump’s executive order didn’t simply prohibit any of his hires from working on matters relating to a former employer—it specifically covered “any meeting or communication relating to the performance of one’s official duties.” This means at least two of Trump’s top aides, former Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon and his assistant Julia Hahn, would be prohibited from chatting with their former colleagues at Breitbart about anything work-related—a rule that Bannon appears not to have followed. While not named, it seems likely that protecting the Breitbart alums from ethics complaints was the aim.

Another takeaway from Trump’s waivers is that they appear to be far less restrictive than Obama administration waivers. Many Obama waivers (there were only 10 total granted to White House employees during his administration) were very narrowly tailored. For example, James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser, was granted a waiver to allow him to introduce Bill Clinton at an event for the Atlantic Council, even though Jones had previously worked for the group. John Brennan, at the time one of Obama’s deputy national security advisers, had previously worked for The Analysis Company, and he was granted a waiver to use the company’s data while investigating the so-called “Underwear Bomber” incident. Brennan was not cleared to talk to any of the company’s employees, however.

Trump’s waivers, on the other hand, are broad.

For instance, Trump granted a waiver to Michael Catanzaro, who is the president’s most senior energy policy aide, allowing him to work freely on “broad policy matters and particular matters of general applicability relating to the Clean Power Plan, the WOTUS Waters of the United States rule, and methane regulations.” Catanzaro worked as a registered lobbyist for several oil and gas companies as recently as January, which made the waiver necessary. On his most recent lobbying disclosure form—filed on behalf of one of his clients, natural gas company Noble Energy—Catanzaro wrote that he was working on “EPA and BLM’s proposed and final regulations covering methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas facilities.” Nearly identical language appears in his most recent lobbying disclosure on behalf of another natural gas company, Encana. In other words, Catanzaro is now making policy on the very issues he was paid by corporations to lobby on. There are no restrictions in Catanzaro’s waiver relating to his previous clients.

Another lobbyist turned Trump aide is Shahira Knight, who was previously employed as vice president of public policy for mutual fund giant Fidelity and now serves as Trump’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy. Her waiver grants her permission to work on “matters of general applicability relating to tax, retirement and financial services issues.” Fidelity’s most recent lobbying report—filed while Knight ran its lobbying shop—lists the main issue areas targeted by the company’s lobbyists: finance, retirement, banking, and taxes.

While the Obama administration reluctantly granted waivers for narrow sets of circumstances, the Trump waivers appear to be written to carefully exempt the previous lobbying work done by White House aides.

And this is just the beginning. The administration released only the waivers granted to White House employees—the release does not include waivers granted to administration officials who work for federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Treasury Department. The White House will turn those waivers over to the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday, but it’s not clear when they will be made public.

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Trump Is Waiving His Own Ethics Rules to Allow Lobbyists to Make Policy

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Trump WH: Birth Control Mandate Is Unnecessary Because of Planned Parenthood, Which We’ll Also Defund

Mother Jones

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The Trump administration’s argument for letting lots of employers opt out of covering birth control is…not exactly bulletproof.

Yesterday, Vox reported that the Trump administration is considering a broad exemption to Obamacare’s mandate on contraceptive coverage, according to a leaked draft of the proposed rule. If passed, the rule would allow virtually any employer, not just a religious one, to remove birth control coverage from its insurance plan if contraception violates the organization’s religious beliefs or “moral convictions”—a broad and murky standard.

But, in a curious twist, part of the Trump administration’s justification for the move hinges on the existence of hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics, many of which the White House is actively trying to close by “defundingPlanned Parenthood.

As the draft text explains, the administration believes the past rationale for Obamacare’s contraception mandate is insufficient. The document lists several reasons why this is the case. Here’s one of them:

“There are multiple Federal, state, and local programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for low-income women, including Medicaid (with a 90% Federal match for family planning services), Title X, health center grants, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. According to the Guttmacher Institute, government-subsidized family planning services are provided at 8,409 health centers overall. Various state programs supplement Federal programs, and 28 states have their own mandates of contraceptive coverage as a matter of state law. For example, the Title X program, administered by the HHS Office of Population Affairs (OPA), provides voluntary family planning information and services for clients based on their ability to pay.

“The availability of such programs to serve the most at-risk women identified by IOM Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine diminishes the Government’s interest in applying the Mandate to objecting employers.”

The implication here is that since there are already programs like Medicaid and Title X to help low-income women afford contraception, the requirement that most employers provide no-cost birth control is less pressing.

But there are a couple of glaring contradictions here: First of all, of the 8,409 health centers that provide Medicaid and Title X family planning services, as cited in the rule, 817 of them are run by Planned Parenthood—the very group that Congress and the administration are trying to exclude from using Title X and Medicaid funds to provide health care.

Trump has already signed a bill into law allowing states to exclude Planned Parenthood and other providers who offer abortions from receiving Title X family planning funding—never mind that Title X funding is used exclusively for nonabortion services. Beyond that, there are several more proposals moving through government—including in the House’s American Health Care Act and in the Trump budget proposal—to withhold Medicaid and other federal dollars, including Title X, specifically from Planned Parenthood.

The problem with the White House’s logic boils down to this: As the nation’s largest provider of federal Title X-funded care, in 2015 Planned Parenthood centers served more than 40 percent of women nationwide using Title X-funded family planning care—a whopping 1.58 million patients. But if Planned Parenthood can no longer receive a single federal dollar to provide contraception and other family planning care—an oft-repeated goal of the Trump administration—then these nearly 1.6 million low-income patients will suddenly lose their family planning care. And now their employers may not cover that care either.

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Trump WH: Birth Control Mandate Is Unnecessary Because of Planned Parenthood, Which We’ll Also Defund

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Trump Can Fire People, But He’s Having Trouble Hiring New Ones

Mother Jones

Gloria Borger reports:

Trump returns to the White House this week just as he left — lonely, angry and not happy with much of anyone. The presidency, Donald Trump is discovering, is not an easy or natural fit. “He now lives within himself, which is a dangerous place for Donald Trump to be,” says someone who speaks with the President. “I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts.

Unfortunately, Trump has a big problem hiring new staffers who he might trust:

The disclosures from investigations stemming from Russian meddling in last year’s election — coupled with the president’s habit of undercutting his staff — have driven away candidates for West Wing jobs that normally would be among the most coveted in American politics, according to people involved in the search.

By the time the first change in what may be a broader shake-up was announced Tuesday, the White House was left without a replacement. Michael Dubke, the White House communications director, said he would step down, but four possible successors contacted by the White House declined to be considered, according to an associate of Mr. Trump who like others asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

At the same time, talks with two former advisers, Corey Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, about joining the White House staff grew more complicated. Mr. Bossie, a former deputy campaign manager, signaled that he does not plan to join the staff.

I can’t imagine why anyone even semi-competent would be willing to work for Trump, especially in the press operation. Trump undercuts them constantly, and he obviously wants to be the public face of the administration himself. The problem is that he’s afraid to face the press on a regular basis. Even he realizes that his administration is epically incompetent, and reporters have started calling him out on this. So he hides in the Oval Office and feeds his press staff to the lions instead.

As for every other position, too many people finally understand what Trump is really like:

There is this storyline about Donald Trump, one longtime Trump watcher says, that he’s a loyal guy. That he sticks with his old friends and defends them and supports them. “You have it all wrong,” he says. “Trump is not loyal, except to his family. He can be solicitous and ingratiating. But if there’s a moment you are not useful, forget it, you’re done. No matter what you have done for him.” Consider: Rudy Giuliani, Paul Manafort, Chris Christie.

I don’t know what took everyone so long to figure this out, but by now they have. There’s just no upside working for a shitshow of a White House and a shitshow of a man.

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Trump Can Fire People, But He’s Having Trouble Hiring New Ones

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