Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cannon Ball ND pipeline protests coming to a head

Authorities want protestors out of Cannon Ball, ND (on the southern border) by Monday, Dec. 5, and that isn't likely to happen.  People who try to supply the camp could face fines, according to the latest Reuters story.

However, aggression against the camp could amount to "war crime" since this is Native American sovereign territory.

And protestors are more dug in, as they start to build wooden structures to deal with the cold.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Cannon Ball under CCSA 2.0.

Update: Sunday, December 4

The US Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the pipeline on Native Lands, forcing it to be re-routed.  CNN has the story today.

From a moral viewpoint, the outcome certain speaks well for the effectiveness of individually self-sacrificial protests.

"Heavy" has a catalog of images of the massive protests and tent city in winter. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Damage to Gatlinburg like that of a California fire

It's rather shocking to see a major resort town in the Southeast burning (cont. post Nov. 15), as reported now in USA Today, .

I drove through Gatlinburg, TN in July 2013 at night, and on to Pigeon Forge, on the way to Oak Ridge.  I had come down off US 441.

Mass evacuations into shelters, including a hotel, and of over 100 homes apparently were necessary.  A good question will be what kind of insurance people have.  How will they be sheltered in the mean time?  Will they be able to stay in the area during rebuilding.

Thunderstorms on Nov. 30 may finally end most of the fires.

Update: Dec. 2

Gatlinburg was "built to burn".  Droughts in the Southeast, especially in the later fall or winter, happen every 15-20 years (even before climate change).  People who choose to live in an urban-rural interface with few roads need to become "doomsday preppers", link.  Do they have insurance?  Shold the rest of us bail out people who choose to live there?  Well, we want them there when we go on vacation, don't we?  Somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Could the Electoral College dump Trump? Yes, but.... (not too likely)

To start this article, note that Gannett has the latest numbers on the popular vote winner (Clinton) and electoral college winner (Trump) as of noon today.

There’s a small but growing talk from credible sources that some Republican electors could refuse to vote for Donald Trump on Dec. 19, denying him the 270 needed for the presidency.

Instead a new Republican Congress could choose a more establishment person, who could wind up being Mitt Romney (if he wants it) or even Paul Ryan himself, if he steps down.  Were this to happen, the GOP would try to distance itself from racism, alt-right ideology, and extremism with a more moderate choice.  Ted Cruz (whose statements later in the primary campaign tended more toward libertarianism, with some welcome concern over Internet freedom and cybersecurity) could be a more desirable choice than most moderates believe.   Or they could move toward Kasich or even Rubio.

Polico has a story here A well-regarded UK site regards the Electoral College as an escape hatch to keep an unsuitable person out of the presidency, link.

The conservative Washington Times claims some electors are being chased.

The Atlantic considers such an event possible but dangerous, here.    But a House election on Jan. 3 of a more “moderate” or “mainstream” GOP candidate should not be dangerous for the country.

Generally bigger sources pooh-pooh this idea, such as the Los Angeles Times.

I like the sign below just the way it is.
Update: Dec, 3, 2016

Note this Huffington Post argument by Paul Abrams, referring to Russian argument (although the referenced article is not all that convincing. Can the Electors violate state law and think about this on Dec. 19?  Well, cogitate, yes (or "yeth").

Update:  Dec. 15, 2016

Here is EJ Dionne's argument in the Washington Post on what the electors should do.

Vox has an explanatory article on the recount, Dec. 1.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Non-profits need a lot more transparency in how they manage the risks that volunteers may take

In a culture that is increasingly concerned about “giving back” as a component or moral and political egalitarianism (or about religious values), how should someone who volunteers to provide care to those in need, or particularly to drive (especially his own vehicle) for a non-profit charity approach the issue of personal risk?

This is a huge issue, with many ramifications that can’t all be covered in a short post.  But some of the biggest risks would include auto accident (with liability or injury to the volunteer or to other beneficiaries being transported), and crime, particularly in lower income areas where much volunteer work may be needed.  The very worst scenarios could include something carjacking and kidnapping when someone is transporting a client or doing meal delivery in an economically disadvantaged for possibly racially troubled area.

Another possibility is a “Good Samaritan” situation where someone has attempts to rescue or save someone else’s life after an accident, fire, crime, or otherwise dangerous situation and when emergency services cannot arrive quickly.

Generally, individuals’ own auto liability policies cover liability up to a point, but non-profits can be liable in various situations, differing among states.The Internet is scattered with occasional stories of volunteers being targeted by violent crime, as here, somewhat along the lines of Donald Trump's "nation in peril" notions.
There are many references online, with somewhat contradictory advice, but here are a few of the best: CTAA, Venable, and Volunteer Match.

One of the biggest issues for non-profits needing volunteers is transparency.  Organizations need to have a sense of what they are asking for, including the possibility of risk taking, and communicate this to potential volunteers.  Problems occur at times of the year where many volunteers are needed for one day (like to deliver Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, especially in troubled neighborhoods) where volunteers are less experienced and less familiar with locations, adding to risk.  Some non-profits with a narrower client focus may be fooled by their own sense of “identity politics” and blind themselves to seeing around some corners to recognize the risks involved for volunteers.

 Orientations and public information forums seem important. This may even be more serious in politically controversial projects, such as helping certain immigrants.

On the other hand, people new to volunteering will need to ponder the meaning behind “giving back” (or “shared sacrifice” or “right-sizing”)  In a world where people depend on others who take risk (ranging from firefighters, who may be volunteers, to military, to the “somebody’s gotta do it” crowd) one’s personal credibility (or karma) may be compromised if he or she seems cowardly.

As a grim closing, I’ll include a link on carjacking.  Note the advice never to allow kidnapping (as in the movie “Nocturnal Animals”), which becomes an existential life-ending threat.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Can Trump clamp down on "sanctuary cities" and "trust" states? In practice, probably not; listen to law enforcement

So-called “sanctuary cities”, who could lose federal funding from a Trump administration for not cooperating in rounding up adult children brought here as kids by undocumented workers, are standing firm, and these include Washington DC, as in this story by Antonio Olivo and Peter Jamisom, Metro section.

Most major coastal cities would be affected.  Police departments say that sanctuary is a valuable tool in investigations, in questioning people who may know something about real criminal or terror plots, and that an aggressive deportation policy would actually undermine national security.

California and Connecticut have narrow “sanctuary” or “trust” laws as explained in the video.  They won’t hold people longer for possible immigration violations. There is a question as to whether the federal government can compel states to spend their own money to enforce federal laws.

So, whatever Trump’s ideological promise to woo gullible crowds, it isn’t practical.
As far as housing asylum seekers, an asylee has the legal right to be here once he or she has the paperwork showing submission of an application for asylum.  So, as I understand it, a host is not providing “sanctuary” or abetting an immigration violation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Southeastern fires seem unprecedented in area covered

In July, I visited the “Brown Mountain” are of North Carolina, and now it appears that many areas I visited are affected by wildfires, as reported in this ABC News story.  People have been required to evacuate from at least five counties in North Carolina.  There is fire close to Atlanta, and air pollution from smoke in Atlanta.

The fires go from Alabama to southwestern Virginia and seem to be fueled by extreme autumn drought. That’s ironic because eastern North Carolina was flooded by Hurricane Matthew. However, there have been no large Gulf-originated tropical storms this fall to provide moisture to the Appalachian part of the Southeast.

The fires are described as “California-sized”.

An “aspiring weatherman” was arrested for arson motivated supposedly by the desire to get social media views, story here. This is not an incident we need with a new president who views some aspects of social media as a national security risk (as relative to ISIS).

But most fires may have natural causes.  There have been big fires in the pine forests of northern Florida and the coastal areas of the Carolinas in the past.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cushing OK earthquake highlights concern with fracking dangers

The Insurance Journal has reported concern about the connection between fracking and the epidemic of earthquakes in Oklahoma, the latest a rather significant one in Cushing, north of Oklahoma City.

The article notes that Cushing is near one of the nation's largest oil trading hubs and that the swarm of quakes is a potential national security issue for a Trump administration.

The other obvious question is covering the damage to homes, and especially to their resale values for people who have to move.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture by Bencochrane under CCSA 2.5. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Guaranteed basic income could help with infrastructure projects

The Business Section of the New York Times, p. 4, features an analysis by Robert H. Frank,”Handouts wit a Twist: Rebuilding America”, link here.

The subject is basic guaranteed income.  Frank notes that grants that are too big could lead people to settle into intentional communities and withdraw from the economy pretty much (although intentional communities do sell renewable products).  But he things a smaller grant could actually support major infrastructure projects.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump wants to cover pre-existing conditions, probably with a reinsurance concept well known in business

CNN has an interesting perspective by a medical doctor, Ford Vox, on Trump’s views of health care, here.. Ford describes Trump’s “alternative reality” and notes that conservatives expect not to pay anything for health care until something happens – that is, they object to paying for other people’s health care, on the ‘take care of your own” idea.

FEE ‘s Jeffrey Tucker notes that “the election became a referendum on Obamacare” but undoing it is anything but simple.

Here’s my take. You can go back to what we had before, but add portability across state lines, and coverage on parents’ policies until 26. For pre-existing conditions, you set up a reinsurance pool that is partially federally owned, and possibly supported by a small payroll tax.  That means that individual and group premiums don’t have to cover pre-existing conditions or pay for “anti-selection” – the public has to cover this in large part, Bernie Sanders style.

Of course, what counts as a legitimate pre-exisiting condition becomes a political football.  Inherited conditions like juvenile diabetes.  Behavior-related conditions -- whether connected to sex (including HIV), obesity, or cigarette smoking, gets testy and maybe nasty.

Remember, anyone, no matter how healthy, can get hit by a drunk driver or step on an unexploded land mine in Central Park.  Insurance needs to cover this, fully.

Update: Nov. 20

Vox has a rundown by Sarah Kliff of the leading Republican "a better way" plans (7 of them). which tend to help younger workers more than the old and sick.

Update: Nov. 25

The Washington Post offers the "Ultimate QA about Health Care under a Trump presidency" here.

Update: Dec. 6

FEE has an article explaining the rise in premiums on Obamacare on pre-existing conditions and people with bad behaviors.  Aaron Schanzenbach writes "You now pay for your neighbor's weight problem; thanks Obamacare/"   The pre-existing conditions that are clear cut enough like juvenile diabetes could be covered the way renal disease is now.  But what's behavior-based?  What's genetic?  Is HIV infection to be treated as behavior-based?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Trump's "race baiting" within media earshot of immature kids could lead to bullying

Jenee Desmond-Harris has an important analysis, “’All the Black and Brown People Have to Leave’: Trump’s scary impact on how kids think.”
She makes the point that when young kids overhear Trump’s comments in the media, they don’t understand the context (their brains aren’t developed enough to have the cognition to grasp what it means)   So they have a tendency to repeat the behaviors they see adults engaging in,

I can relate to this.  I was teased and bullied, but especially in a couple of troubling incidents in seventh and ninth grades, I could bully back.
When I was in kindergarten, in a private home in 1948-1949, the teacher divided the class into “brownies and elves”, as if the elves were superior and allowed to meet upstairs.  I was a “brownie” (I am white) and stayed downstairs.  That always stuck with me.  That would not be acceptable teaching now.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Should electors be allowed to vote their consciences this year (whether or not Trump wins)?

Richard Sincere, formerly head of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty in the 1990s and active with the Libertarian Party of Virginia, has written recently about the possibility that electors could vote their consciences on Dec. 9.
This might become an issue if Donald Trump had an electoral majority, or if no one had one.

Sincere comments on his own Richmond Times Dispatch in an op-ed in Bearing Drift here. The original column is here.

State laws, including Virginia’s, often bind electors to the ballots, but a little known violation in 1972 by Virginia Roger MacBride relates to the early history of the Libertarian Party.

Above is a one-hour video by “Election Justice USA”. Let Michael Moore watch it.
Rick’s commentary also appears on Blogger here. (It works in https;  I tried it with SSL.)

Picture: Broad Street in Richmond after a September 2015 bicycle racing tournament.