Sunday, November 26, 2017

Houston residents still in motels, with no end in sight


The Houston Chronicle, in a detailed story by Rebecca Elliot, reports that tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Harvey still live in motels, far flung from home, link here. About one third of all housing units in Houston were severely damaged. 

Generally, FEMA does not provide trailers to be placed on properties while homes are repaired, and this sounds like a surprise to me.

The debris could have been one reason, but by and large most of the debris from yards and streets has been removed.


Money to pay rent could become a problem for many families by January.
Survival Mom on Facebook has written about local volunteer teams around her neighborhood northeast of Houston pulling drywall for mold cleanup. But there has been a lot of criticism of Red Cross efforts. After Katrina, many volunteer teams were not allowed to work around mold. 
  

Wikipedia attribution link for NOAA rainfall map of Harvey. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

If Hillary runs for the House in 2018, she could wind up as president in 2019


A Republican law professor, Richard W. Painter, at the University of Minnesota is proposing a constitutional and lawful way Hillary Clinton could become president of the United States around Jan. 3, 2019.

Painter suggests that Hillary Clinton run in New York State for the House in 2018 and win a seat. Then if Mueller’s probes prove that Trump and Pence illegally colluded with Putin, they could be impeached and removed from office, and Hillary could be elected Speaker of the House if the Democrats take the House in 2018.

That could be one reason Trump really does want to put “Crooked Hillary” in jail.
  
The Palmer Report story is here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Trump tax plan could hurt reinsurance, which in turn would affect disaster recovery and Obamacare replacement


The Houston Chronicle pointed out today in a detailed article that the Trump tax plan would harm recovery from disasters by penalizing offshore transactions, which are often vital to the reinsurance industry.

Reinsurance is a major party of the strategy for paying for claims from major disasters, especially hurricanes and big wildfires, and probably earthquakes. Some of the risks for these are not insured by normal insurance (for example, special federally subsidized flood insurance is needed for most water damage in most locations, and earthquake insurance follows a similar paradigm. (Sinkholes, especially in Florida, can be interesting;  Florida requires the coverage for them be offered.)

But if reinsurance becomes more expensive, then coverage for floods and earthquakes especially will become more expensive and assistance to affected homeowners less.


Reinsurance can also be a useful tool in health insurance, and could have been set up to make improvements in replacing “Obamacare”, by helping cover claims of less healthy people. But the Trump tax plan could make health care reform more difficult too (even as some versions of the tax plan want to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate).
  
The Houston Chronicle story shows a picture of the flood surrounding a large home in Spring, TX, in northern Harris County. I believe that the Survival Mom on Facebook (Lisa Bedford) said she lives near there,  I recall that she was OK after Harvey, but commented on Facebook that local volunteerism in repairing homes (dealing with mold and drywall ripout) was essential to the recovery in the area.  That’s right, people who don’t have construction experience seem asked to chip in.  I don’t know how well this worked out with Katrina, where many volunteers were not allowed to work around mold. 
  
{ic above: By United States Geological Survey - Houston, Texas at the Wayback Machine (archived on 10 February 2005), Public Domain, Link

I did see a lot of the hurricane damage in the Florida Keys Sunday, link.




Friday, November 17, 2017

Anti-Trump protest and resistance dragnet from inauguration day seems to ensnare some journalists


This story by Chris Steele in Truthout does need careful attention. It claims that many people who were present at the violent anti-Trump demonstrations on Inauguration Day 2017 could face up to 60 years in prison.  The charges seem to be incitement to riot.  

The article claims that bloggers or journalists making video were viewed as complicit and arrested.


It also claims that resistance protestors in Charlottesville were charge much more severely that the original white supremacist groups.

Of course, this article would need a lot of fact-checking, but if true (given the name of the website) it is certainly disturbing.

I for one is not one who sees the world in terms of tribal enemies. And I don't contribute to sites to become my "voice" of oppression. 

But, there are very disturbing stories that Trump's people might prosecute Trump's "losing" political adversary, banana republic style, as here



Update: Nov. 26

Keith L. Alexander and Paul Duggan reported on Nov. 21, that the protesters' trial being.  Defense lawyers say that their six clients did not take part in the violence and were simply there to report.

Friday, November 10, 2017

TSA failures of undercover tests raise further indirect questions about traveling with electronics


According to ABC News, story by David Kerley and Jeffrey Cook, the TSA failed most undercover test results of TSA screening.

The failure rate seemed to be about 80%, which was a small improvement from two years ago.


The report very casually mentions the concern about laptop bombs (which had resulted in in-cabin electronics buns from some Mideast airports last March), which has been offset by other recent findings about the safety hazards of placing electronics with lithium ion batteries in checked luggage – so right now there is no perfect solution.  The ABC video on this story automatically then plays an older video reporting that TSA was requiring some laptops to be placed in bins. It’s not clear if preferred travelers would be exempt.

Again, most of us need to take our electronics on the road and be productive when we get there, at least in the hotel rooms.  I like to have inflight Internet (even if paid for) if the flight is longer than 4 hours. 
  
I actually went to a job fair for screeners in St. Paul MN in August 2002, and I hardly believe I could have adjusted to this kind of regimentation at work. I met a couple young screeners personally waiting for a connection in Detroit that year. 
  
Wired has a good story from June 2017 on the laptop issue here



Update: Nov. 13

There are further stories about TSA concerns over the possibility of drones attacking planes.  

And there was a lithium battery explosion in a camera in Orlando on Friday Nov. 11, local TV story. .  This is still a big problem to be solved. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Federal judge in Brooklyn allows suit's against Trump's temporizing policy on DACA to go forward


On a day of multiple demonstrations in support of DACA, a federal judge has ruled that lawsuits stopping President Trump from halting DACA by fifteen states and the District of Columbia, can go forward. The ruling came from U.S. District Judge Nicholas Gurufus.
  
The Wall Street Journal story by Joe Palazollo is here.

The reasoning behind the ruling seems pretty simple – discrimination.  There’s some procedural stuff but not a lot this time.

  

States have argued that interfering with DACA even conditionally upon Congress interferes with filling positions particularly at universities. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

FBI had fired an agent over taking fertility medication


Taking lawfully prescribed drugs can get you in trouble if you have some kinds of jobs, even something to address sterility so that one can have a child within a traditional marriage.

That’s the history of hostage rescue agent Matthew Litton, according to a story Oct. 28 by Adam Goldman in the New York Times.

An administrative law judge ruled that Litton had been wrongfully discharged when he didn’t disclose the medication. The judge ruled that the government was effectively discriminating because of a disability not related to work.

  

But the details of the story of Litton’s career in the story are quite remarkable. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

GOP tax plan: trick or treat


The GOP tax plan flashed on my smartphone this afternoon as I was away on a day trip in PA.
  
It’s treats for the few, and tricks for the many, according to one CNN op-ed by Edward McCaffery. 

The doubling of the standard deduction is largely offset by the loss of the personal exemption, but there is a weakened incentive to itemize. Limitations of real estate tax deductions could hurt people in higher tax states.But eliminating the moralistic alternative minimum tax is welcome. 



But Norquist, for example, says nobody makes money from a tax cut.  It’s just that less money is expropriated from them. 




Update: Nov. 4

Vox, in an article by Jen Kirby, explains how the GOP tax plan goes against "family values" by undermining the adoption tax credit, especially for special needs children. 

Update: Nov. 8

David Brooks has an interesting perspective on how the GOP tax plan penalizes Blue state professionals and and on the need to re-educate them to get their hands dirty, here

Update: Nov 9

CNBC compares House and Senate tax plans. Expect all this to change.