Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Good Samaritan faces lawsuit from the criminal he stopped with force


A good Samaritan who fought off a robber at a Starbucks in Fresno and stabbed the robber to subdue him now faces a lawsuit from the robber. Here is the abc7 story.  The mother claims excessive force and vigilantism. 
  
This all sounds perverse.  Although I would not be able to intervene myself (other than call 911). 


This makes you wonder about the law surrounding a “citizen’s arrest”.

This litigation will go nowhere. Law, and order. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GOP's latest Obamacare "repeal" throws it all back to the states


“Those Republicans” are about to try to repeal Obamacare again, and maybe replace it with almost nothing  Just proportional block grants to the states.


Think Progress is often a little too pushy and Leftist for me, but this article seems like a fair assessment of Lindsey Graham’s strategy. Judd Legum writes that be bill pits Americans against one another.  No, it begs for more GoFundMe campaigns?  
  
Matthew Yglesias weighs in on the more moderate Vox site and mentions that previous the GOP would have let states keep Obamacare if they wanted.  Apparently no longer. 

Update: Sept. 20

Dylan Matthews compares to to welfare reform, which he says failed miserably. Bill Clinton did that. Insurance companies will have to cover pre-existing conditions, but can charge a lot more.  

But the subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and individual mandates are gone.  Why not some sort of reinsurance system? 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricane Maria suddenly menaces much of Caribbean, maybe some of Eastern US


Again, another hurricane, this one Maria (like in West Side Story) has exploded.  This one started farther south than Irma but will cross further north, but may very well make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, especially east of San Juan.

The European Model so far keeps the hurricane off the east coast of the US, but some American model runs allow a dangerous landfall, probably in the Carolinas.  One run actually runs up much of the Chesapeake Bay.


This storm is supposed to weaken to a Cat 3 by the time it reaches Florida’s latitude.
A critical issue is whether High Pressure in the north Atlantic might drift back westward and force the hurricane onshore.

Here’s a story from Fortune. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Will many displaced Houstonians not return and have to resetlte elsewhere?


Peter Whoriskey and Patricia Sullivan discuss the possibility of not rebuilding in some of the most flood-prone neighborboods of Houston in a Washington Post article, “In flood-weary Houston, a call to retreat”, link here  
    
These areas would presumably include some areas deliberately flooded by reservoir releases during the recent massive rain event in late August.

However, buyouts of people and relocating them brings up many questions.  As with New Orleans, there would be questions, would they stay and work in Houston?  Would others in distant cities be asked to consider taking them in?


Maybe higher density housing, including high-rises, could be created in slightly higher areas of the City.  Texas generally doesn’t nurture high-rise living the way coastal cities do.

Even other cities, like Austin and San Antonio, around the Hill Country, have to be very careful about river flooding given the propensity for large rainfall events, especially from tropical moisture.  Ranch roads around Texas are filled with stream crossings and warning rulers. 

It would be important to know if Houston problems are affecting housing prices in other Texas cities.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"BernieCare": Sanders is serious about Medicare for All


On Vox, Jeff Stein interviews Bernie Sanders on his single-payer “Medicare for all” health care plan, link here.  The biggest problem could be the waiting lists, which would lead to partial re-privatization so that people could get surgery sooner for problems that keep them from working.  People from Canada do come to the US for surgery (Calgary Herald ).



Paul Waldman of the Washington Post explains the plan (“BernieCare”) in detail, and its implementation is gradual in the ability to cover all adults.  It doesn’t cover everything (like some nursing homes).    So how about a comparison to some quasi-privatized but efficient systems like Switzerland’s?  

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hurricanes accelerated debt ceiling crisis, forcing Trump to deal with Democrats


Trump’s debt ceiling deal, for three months, ruffled some sails, as Trump worked with Democrats, in the face of two hurricanes, and seems to be turning his image around.

Paul Ryan, in a turnabout, explained that people in Texas had been getting FEMA grants by their smartphones, in record speed compared to Katrina 12 years ago.  FEMA was about to run out of money by no later than Tuesday, after which Florida and the southeast will have to deal with Irma.  Ryan talked about "two horrible hurricanes", as Irma is called a "nuclear hurricane".  
  
 So the debt ceiling wall could come up much sooner than Sept. 29, and a political standoff could have meant cutting off FEMA aid to hurricane victims.



Matthew Yglesias explains Trump’s negotiations on Vox here   Is this “negotiation” from “The Apprentice” where Troy McClain let his legs get waxes on camera in order to “take one for the team”?  

Update: The bill passed and was signed.  The debt ceiling will come back as a Christmas present. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Protest march from Charlottesville to Washington specifically addresses white supremacists as a terror enemy group


ABC7 Washington (WJLA, Sinclair) reporter Jeff Goldberg reports on the arrival of a small protest march from Charlottesville VA at the Martin Luther King Memorial near the Tidal Basin and Lincoln Memorial, having crossed from Gateway Park near Rosslyn in Arlington.


The march specifically protests the threat of “systematic oppression” by white supremacists, itself as a group.

There will be several rival groups demonstrating in Washington DC Saturday September 16.  14411
  
I’ve gotten so busy I didn’t have time to go out and film this one.  No spectators?  

Monday, September 04, 2017

Trump will end DACA with a six-month grace period, pass the football to Congress


President Trump is expected to announce the end of DACA after a six-month delay Tuesday.  Trump wants Congress to own responsibility for the controversy.  The CNN story is here
  
Trump faces a threat of lawsuit by nine red states, claiming the president does not have legal authority to end-round immigration statutes, even for popular or humanitarian reasons.

Mainstream opinions (and most employers) feel that adult children should not be held responsible for their parents’ illegal actions.  And employers find DACA recipients good employees.


But Trump’s base argues that this is unfair to immigrants whose parents came here legally, and feel that college slots and jobs are lost to those whose presence would otherwise be illegal.

One result could be that DACA recipients would lose the ability to have green cards and work legally. Social pressure could be set up for others to support them as family members, as in the LGBT community, to prevent them from having to return to countries with violent environments.  Some DACA adult children speak English well but not their original languages.
  
Trump used to say on “The Apprentice”, “Life isn’t fair.” 

Update: Sept 5:

Some lawyers say Trump needs to allow a comment period, story. It looks like Houston really needs all the labor pool it can get right now.  Don't do the deportations. 

The dreamers had given the government their PII and biographical data in good faith. 

Here is Sessions's statement this morning. 

No new applications are accepted even those in the system have six months.  And the White House has supposedly said they should prepare to leave if necessary. 

NBC News posted Trump's statement

Update: Sept. 6

Some blue states are suing over the DACA rescinding, CNN story. Trump says he would reconsider if Congress can't pass a reconstruction in six months. 

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Hurricane Irma: European and American models switch, but a swipe of the mid-Atlantic Coast starts to look more likely


Greg Porter, of the Washington Post Weather Gang, reports evolving concern that Hurricane Irma could hit the US East Coast possibly at Category 4 winds around the eye.  The main link is here

The European and American models seem to have traded places.  American model spaghetti plots tend to suggest likely landfalls along the SE coast, but many European plots turn it out to sea.  High Pressure over the North Atlantic could favor a SE coast landfall.  One model has the storm going up the Chesapeake Bay, which could maintain eyewall windspeeds toward the Beltway.  The most likely day for a landfall looks like around Sept. 12.


But in the pasty European models have been more predictive (as with Sandy).

It is looking less likely that it could go into the Gulf and threaten Louisiana and Texas again. 

A few websites (like Economic Collapse Blog) have claimed that Irma could grow into a record Category 6 as it nears the West Indies.   It would probably lose some strength as it moves north. 

Weatherboy notes the trend of model runs in recent hours. 

The Washington DC area (and perhaps Philadelphia) feel somewhat sheltered by being farther inland/  But, as noted before, a fast moving hurricane could maintain windspeeds as it moved up the Chesapeake Bay, which is 30 miles wide at one point but narrows as it goes north, but mostly very shallow. An eyewall could fit inside the Bay.  Hurricane Hazel in 1954 passed to the west of DC but generated a 98 mph gust at Reagan (then National) airport, although winds off the Potomac may be exaggerated compared to other areas.  I was 11 years old then and remember the event, but I don't remember that there was much destruction or power outages  

People who live about the Fall Line are pretty safe from flooding (unless along Piedmont or mountain streams).  It's desirable to be at least 200 feet above sea level. 
    
By Image courtesy of Mike Trenchard, Earth Sciences & Image Analysis Laboratory , Johnson Space Center. - http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=12140, Public Domain, Link

Update: Sept. 6

The latest plots suggest a slightly more Eastern track (Post).  Irma is likely to be slightly off shore for a time until it reaches maybe the Carolinas, which could mean it remains a higher category than it would.  But it may spare FL the worst, as did Matthew.  It is likely to tend to turn farther east as soon as it is farther north at the latitude of the Carolinas.  A hurricane up the west coast of FL could flood Tampa-St. Pete badly because of the construction practices in the past.

Friends in FL (Facebook, etc)  tell me newer high rise condos are built to withstand Cat 4's   

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The "Cajun Navy" pays it forward; personal housing hosting requested in Texas by faith groups already



The “Cajun Navy” has been “paying it forward” by rescuing people from apartments and homes in privately owned boats in Houston and now Beaumont-Port Arthur.


There was one story of a man who bought a boat in Florida and drove it as a trailer all the way to Texas to help out.  I don’t know how he could have parked.  I don’t have the hands-on skills to rescue people physically.


The Dallas Morning News has a page on how North Texans (240 miles away) can help, here.  They are asking for volunteers in evacuation centers set up in Dallas and probably Austin and San Antonio.  The Airbnb offer was discussed in a previous post. 

The General Consulate of Houston and apparently a few other faith-based organizations have requested homeowners in Texas host families.  Here is the Google Docs form link. It does not appear that hosting from outside Texas is being requested at this time.  

Update: Sept. 6

Here is a story of how someone was "conscripted" into the Cajun Navy by downloading an app!

Monday, August 28, 2017

How will hundreds of thousands probably displaced by the Texas flood be housed?


As the rest of the country prepares for the news about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, especially the flooding in the most populated areas (Harris County and Houston TX) from the stalling of the storm (the wind damage was, however traumatic, in a generally less populated area), it’s well to look at the costs and recovery from Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, as here.   

Shelters held up to 273000 people and FEMA trailers housed 114000.  600,000 households were displaced.  Insurance paid for about 30% of the claims.

Oprah Winfrey and Nate Berkus created a “sweat equity” community in Houston for those permanently displaced, but it hasn’t been reported yet how it fared in Harvey, link

Citylab has an analysis of the diaspora after Katrina.  40% wound up living in Dallas or Houston permanently, so some in Houston will be displaced a second time.  Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and some other communities will probably take on more this time, but the totality of this makes one wonder if much more radical relocation would happen.  The map in the article shows some minor resettlement from Virginia to New York City.  I seem to remember that a few hundred were brought to a development in NE Washington DC but I don’t find the details.


Airbnb has authorized hosts in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio to shelter residents for free.  It’s important to note that Airbnb allows shared rooms and apartments (as opposed to “entire”) where the owner is still in the unit., link.    This raises the broad question of public push to ask people in distant cities to host evacuees, even if not currently using Airbnb.  (That also begs a secondary legal question about old homes, lead and asbestos, and the like, which evacuees don’t have the luxury of being concerned about in practice.)  This reminds me of a similar question with immigrant asylum seekers and refugees, which I have covered on my blogs for the past year.  That has generally fizzled out somewhat, partly because of concern over legal liabilities in the Trump era.   The free service “Emergency BNB” also comes to mind.

By the way, I found the permissive tone of this article on under-the-table home sharing by legal advice site Nolo rather shocking.

If a lot of people have to resettle permanently, that could raise housing costs abruptly in other cities, especially in Texas. 

The Citylab question doesn’t address finding new jobs, or other financial dependency, which might be similar to refugees (although Americans have more legal rights).

One would think that, however distasteful to some, that mass use of mobile homes, placed on properties of the real homes as they are repaired, will be the most practical solution for many homeowners.  American manufacturers and truckers (and Walmart particularly) are good at handling this kind of volume quickly, much more efficiently that out-of-town church volunteers. 

That doesn't address the uninabitability post-flood of many garden apartment complexes, often two-story, in the building style popular in Texas (I lived in Dallas 1979-1988).  

This sort of discussion becomes necessary after other conceivable calamities, like large earthquakes (California) or even a North Korean nuclear strike in the future. 

I wrote about this on Wordpress after the North Korean flareup in early August, here

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mitch reassures us on debt ceiling without specifics, but Washington Post mentions it in an editorial on what Trump ought to be saying


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that there was “zero chance” that Congress would fail to raise the debt ceiling in time (Sept. 29). Mnuchin (who has been urged to quit by his Yale colleagues and is a valuable voice for stability) has urged a clean vote.  But it is still not clear where all the votes are and that there won’t be strings attached. The story by Damian Paletta Aug. 21 is here.

The Post mentions the debt ceiling in a well-conceived editorial this morning, Aug. 24, here
  
Today CNN points out that the federal government authorization to spend runs out Sept. 30.  The president has threatened a veto of future spending bills unless Congress gets started with “Build that Wall”.  Let’s hope that the politics of the Wall doesn’t lead the US to default on obligations. 



CNN says that the government will run out of money to pay its previously ratcheted up bills in early October (slightly after the original Sept. 29 date, when the fiscal year ends.) 

Quick update:


The "realDonaldTrump" tweets on the debt ceiling early this morning:

"I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They.........didn't do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess!".

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump administration halts study on mountatintop removal


The Trump administration has halted a study of mountaintop removal’s effects on the health of nearby residents, as Darryl Fears reports in the Washington Post today, here
  
The article shows a picture of a mine in southern West Virginia; it may be the Kayford Mine. 


Luke Andraka (brother of Jack Andraka) had won a science fair award (and MIT THINK award) for a project involving mine leakage  story and look at end of Wiki on Jack here. 
  
I last visited this area near Kayford in July 2012.  It is not clear that mountaintop removal has really increased.  It would not provide as many jobs as underground mining. 
  
By http://www.flickr.com/people/15648670@N00 iLoveMountains.org - Mountaintop Removal Mine Site above Route 23 in Pike County, Kentucky, CC BY 2.0, Link

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Parachute Teachers, a startup that addresses the substitute teacher shortage


Recently, there has been more reporting of shortages of substitute teachers, including some early AM reports on NBC Washington (no link yet).

There is a group called “Parachute Teachers” which is trying to bring people with real-life work experience into the classroom as subs, but apparently without distinct teaching licenses.  The Atlantic has a story from Feb. 2017 by Hayley Glatter here
  
The group’s own FAQ page is here.  Right now, it seems that the group is active only in the Boston area (and Rhode Island).  I like the idea of bringing “workplace” values to the classroom.



The American School Superintendent’s Association has a page “Dealing with the Substitute Teacher shortage” where it mentions the need for training in emergency issues (CPR, lockdowns), “classroom management” (discipline, especially in middle school or lower grades, or with special education or non-intact students), and “bags of tricks”.  

As I've explained here before, I subbed in northern Virginia 2004-2007 and ran into issues, especially classroom management.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlottesville right-wing terror event: Trump urged to single out white supremacists, neo-Nazis


GOP Senators and House members are calling upon President Donald Trump to publicly disavow white supremacists or white supremacy ideology and neo-Nazism tonight, after one woman was killed by a “vehicle” rampage apparently driven by a white supremacist today (the last allegation needs to be verified).  CNN’s story is here. The suspect is James Alex Fields from Ohio, charged with Second Degree Murder.

I was rather surprised to see the news this morning and note the violence of the demonstrations pick up, with police presence, resulting in cancellation of the march.


The motive for the demonstration had been related to a decision in the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park in Charlottesville.  There is an argument that the statute is part of history.

The UVa Cavalier Daily has video of the incident here
  
The Charlottesville Daily Progress has an account here, by time.  The incident apparently happened at about 1:30 PM.  I was in a movie theater, and did not learn of the event until later, after I got home, after 5 PM. I encountered some friends about 4:30 and the event was not mentioned. 

Charlottesville is supposed to celebrate gay pride in the park Sept. 16, 2017. 


Needless to say, the country still has to be very focused on North Korea.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Space weather is back: Risk of damage to power grids from solar storms estimated at 7% over 10 years


The Weather Channel has reproduced a Reuters story by Deborah Zabarenko, “Solar Storms could knock out U.S. Power”, link

The story says that many coronal mass ejection events might cause voltage fluctuations leading to outages but stop short of massive transformer damage.  However, up to 365 major transformers in the U.S. could be in danger of needing replacement.


There is a 7% chance of a major event in the next ten years, as if this were “slight” in SPC terminology.
  
I passed the story along to Sinclair-owned television station WJLA this morning, hoping that the Weather Gang can cover space weather. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

"Leaked" federal report on climate change says "do not cite, quote, or distribute": The New York Times Climate Papers


A federal scientist(s) has released a climate change report before the Trump administration can hide or squash it.  Chris D’Angelo of the Huffington Post summarizes it here  and the New York Times has its own summary by Lisa Friedman, here. 

The Scribd PDF of the report on the NYTimes site is here  (you may encounter a paywall).
  
Is this Trump’s encounter with the Pentagon Papers?  Not exactly.  I don’t think this is classified or counts as a “leak”.  But the draft pages read “Do not cite, quote or distribute”.  Well, we disobeyed.


The temperature in the US has risen steadily since about 1980.  At current rates, average temperature in the US will rise by over 5 degrees F before 2100, and the absolute minimum with the best practices would be less than 1 degree.

The climate change is largely manmade and is more marked near the poles.  

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Drop dead date on U.S. debt ceiling is September 29, 2017


I would normally add this to a previous post from July 23, but I noticed that talks between Congress and the White House on the debt ceiling seem to have stalled today.  The Washington Post is reporting now that the federal government would run out of money Friday September 29 (or is that Monday Oct. 2).  Default on a payment, the Post says, will cause a stock market crash and sudden rise in interest rates.
The brief story today by Damian Parletta in the Post is here. 




Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mike Mulvaney has come around to a clean increase in the debt ceiling, Yahoo Business Insider here

ABC News has a detailed recent explanation of the debt ceiling by Caroline Cohen and others, here

Jim Carney of the conservative Washington Examiner weighs in here on the "swamp". 

Friday, July 28, 2017

GOP's skinny care fails as McCain says no; Sounds like Milo's fat-shaming


Everybody knows that in the wee hours of the morning, Senator John McCain imitated Nancy Reagan with his “Just Say No”. 

Vox has a pretty complete analysis of the GOP losing streak on health care here.  Now, the baseball team seems to be the only good thing in Washington.

Truthout has a disturbing perspective on the use of civil obedience and “solidarity” that I watch but don’t to myself, here.
Skinny care indeed.  No shame about fat-shaming, as per Milo. 

Bur HRC was claiming credit by email today for its call-in drive, but it was mostly McCain who gets credit.  Two other Republicans voted no.  Susan Collins said she would not take away people's health insurance.  

The Nation doesn't give McCain that much credit "for not killing his constituents", but calls 49 Republican Senators cowards.

If you want to relieve younger adults with student loans from higher premiums, fine.  Them you have to increase subsidies, unconditionally, for the poor and those with pre-existing conditions. You can’t give the rich people more tax breaks.  Do the math. Under federalism, you may have to "trust" the states a bit (which we couldn't on sodomy laws).  

But single payer doesn’t cure everything – like waiting lists, or effective care for some injuries.  The best systems do have a major private component.

For all the complaints about drug prices, think about the medications that are relatively cheap (like my blood pressure medicine).  What makes it cheap is free competition. The same is true for many over the counter medications. 
  
“From each according to his ability, for each according to his needs” 




Update: July 30

The biggest fear is that Trump could just shut down subsidies through insurance companies just to make Obamacare implode.  Price, on ABC this morning, seemed to contradict that. But on NBC Meet the Press, Tom Price said the courts seemed to be saying HHS can't legally make some payments to insurance companies not authorized by Congress. The New York Times has detailed analysis Sunday morning by Reed Abelson, Abby Goodnough, and Katie Thomas. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Real world" football damages brains more than Internet addiction


Various reports indicate that evidence of brain injury (CTE) was found in 96% to 99% of the remains of former NFL and other football players in a study reported in JAMA (which I got familiar with during the AIDS epidemic).   CNN  summarizes it here  and EPSN here.


If you want to be known for smarts, don't play football or contact sports.  But don't get addicted to screens either.  Other good activities in the real world: music, drama, opera, kayaking, tennis, jogging, swimming, cycling (if you don't care about external cosmetics).  

Brain damage probably caused O.J.'s behavior. 
   
This fits Malcolm Galdwell’s idea of being a football fan as morally problematic.