Science

The Pruitt Watch (Probably Not Pizza)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel): "During trip to Italy, SCOTT PRUITT dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal's name from schedules released under FOIA. THREAD:" ―Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT): "FOLLOW ALONG WITH US HERE, as we walk through a FASCINATING collection of documents The NYT has pulled together about a certain dinner in Rome that EPA's Scott Pruitt had last June with Cardinal Pell, who is now facing sexual..." [via Twitter, 10 May 2018]

Rude balls and shitfire! (What? At least it’s not two-bit slapdash about what five-star pizza tastes like. No, seriously, what the hell is anybody supposed to say? Of all the extraneous scandals on the planet, five-star dinner in Rome with an accused child molesting Cardinal who just happens to be a climate change wan― . . . I mean . . . goddamnit!)

Oh, right:

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)During trip to Italy, SCOTT PRUITT dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal’s name from schedules released under FOIA.

Ken Vogel’s summary, via Twitter, suffices, but the real action, as he notes, is Eric Lipton’s tweet thread covering New York Times research and investigation into yet another scandal challenging EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

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Image notes: Top — Tweet by Kenneth P. Vogel, 10 May 2018.  Right — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

@EricLiptonNYT. “Follow along with us here, as we walk through a fascinating collection of documents The NYT has pulled together about a certain dinner in Rome that EPA’s Scott Pruitt had last June with Cardinal Pell, who is now facing sexual abuse charges”. Twitter. 10 May 2018.

@kenvogel. “During trip to Italy, Scott Pruitt dined at a 5-star restaurant with a Cardinal who is a climate change skeptic, even though @EPA staff knew the Cardinal was under investigation for child sex abuse. But they omitted the Cardinal’s name from schedules released under FOIA.” Twitter. 10 May 2018.

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The Pruitt Watch (Peat Fire)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

While the idea of a rioting dumpster fire experienced brief vogue among media commentators trying to describe the Donald Trump presidency, the slowburning, filthy corruption of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt seems to describe something akin to a peat fire. The lede from the New York Times:

Since moving to Washington, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has attracted the attention of federal investigators because of his unusual association with lobbyists, including his rental of a condominium last year owned by the wife of a lobbyist with business before the E.P.A.

As a state senator in Oklahoma 15 years ago, Mr. Pruitt went even further: He bought a home in the state capital with a registered lobbyist who was pushing for changes to the state’s workers’ compensation rules—changes that Mr. Pruitt championed in the legislature.

And as with the condominium rental in Washington, Mr. Pruitt never publicly disclosed his financial relationship with the lobbyist, who, like Mr. Pruitt, lived in the home when in Oklahoma City on business.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, on Capitol Hill, 26 April 2018, in Washington D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)But if for some reason the Pruitt Watch seems frustrating, or even verges toward incomprehensible, perhaps the striking report from The Atlantic suggests a flashpoint:

As Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless stream of scandal, his team is scrambling to divert the spotlight to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And the White House isn’t happy about it.:

In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic.

“This did not happen, and it’s categorically false,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

To the other, an unnamed White House official claiming knowledge of the situation explained: “Absolutely nothing Scott Pruitt did would surprise me.” And, yes, that last might as well include, the prospect of the EPA Administrator simply persisting and enduring, though the article did not.

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The Shadow of America, or, Yeah, I’ll Have to Work the Title Some More, Later (And Who Are We Kidding? I’m Never Getting Back to Fix That Title)

Alice Ristroph, via Democracy Journal:

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.

Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system. It is a matter of population density, and more specifically geographic variations in population density by race, for which the sun and the moon cannot be held responsible. Still, an eclipse chaser is always tempted to believe that the skies are relaying a message. At a moment of deep disagreement about the nation’s best path forward, here comes a giant round shadow, drawing a line either to cut the country in two or to unite it as one. Ancient peoples watched total eclipses with awe and often dread, seeing in the darkness omens of doom. The Great American Eclipse may or may not tell us anything about our future, but its peculiar path could remind us of something about our past—what it was we meant to be doing, and what we actually did along the way. And if it seems we need no reminding, consider this: We tend to backlight our history, and so run the risk of trying to recover a glory that never existed. When the light in August changes, watch carefully.

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Ristroph, Alice. “Blackout”. Democracy Journal. 14 August 2017.

What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work

#earthquakes | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There is that part within that wonders―really, truly, genuinely in all good faith, wonders―who in these United States really thinks they can do that speech in which the audience is supposed to pretend they have no effing clue? Or, to check in with Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones:

If Pruitt’s address was meant to soothe staffers’ concerns about their incoming administrator, they may have come up short.

“Pruitt’s talk [was] as bad as expected,” said a current career EPA staffer of over 20 years, who requested anonymity, following the speech. “Not one word about public health. And talking about the rule of law as if we didn’t do EVERYTHING with the realization that it WILL end up in court. It was condescending and hypocritical.”

Some former EPA officials shared that view. “Trump’s team spent the entire campaign and the last few months railing against EPA’s existence, its staff, and its purpose,” Liz Purchia, an Obama-era communications staffer at the agency, said in an email. “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment. The American people are relying on them to defend the agency, protect its environmental statutes and stand up to Trump’s team to ensure they uphold science and the law.”

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A Musical Moment (#SinisterMinister)

#SinisterMinister | #WhatTheyVotedFor

wynia-20170131-tweet-falwelltrump-detail-bw

The great angst needs a new great release.

Good morning, children! How nice to see you again! I hope you’re ready for your lesson today, hey-hey! To build your spiritual self we’ll start erasing the self; suppress those tiny Devils boiling in your bone! Your whole life you’ve been softly fading. Once you were strong, but now degrading and searching for a light to lead the way. That’s me, I’m a holy spastic. I’ll make you feel you’re made of blood in a world that’s plastic; take my hand, ’cause only I can show you the way, and all the way. The sinister minister’s grinning: What have I got to offer? What have you got to lose in your alcohol haze, in this soft disgrace, when you could be mine and even God needs lambs, and I am the Shepherd? I am the Shepherd! I hate to see you cry: place your hand in mine, and I’ll hate it. And why do you want to suffer? What are you trying to prove in your sick little phase? You’ve got your hands upraised. You could be clean, and you know I need lambs, and I am the Shepherd. You know I’m the Shpeherd! I hate to see you cry: Bleach that soiled life and take your place in line. And now you know all the way. I will be grinning, oh!

Floater, “Minister” (1998)

A Note on Temperament and Character

#trumpswindle | #GOP

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

This is a bit worrisome:

I am not surprised by President Donald Trump’s antics this week. Not by the big splashy pronouncements such as announcing a wall that he would force Mexico to pay for, even as the Mexican foreign minister held talks with American officials in Washington. Not by the quiet, but no less dangerous bureaucratic orders, such as kicking the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of meetings of the Principals’ Committee, the senior foreign-policy decision-making group below the president, while inserting his chief ideologist, Steve Bannon, into them. Many conservative foreign-policy and national-security experts saw the dangers last spring and summer, which is why we signed letters denouncing not Trump’s policies but his temperament; not his program but his character.

We were right. And friends who urged us to tone it down, to make our peace with him, to stop saying as loudly as we could ‘this is abnormal,’ to accommodate him, to show loyalty to the Republican Party, to think that he and his advisers could be tamed, were wrong. In an epic week beginning with a dark and divisive inaugural speech, extraordinary attacks on a free press, a visit to the CIA that dishonored a monument to anonymous heroes who paid the ultimate price, and now an attempt to ban selected groups of Muslims (including interpreters who served with our forces in Iraq and those with green cards, though not those from countries with Trump hotels, or from really indispensable states like Saudi Arabia), he has lived down to expectations.

Precisely because the problem is one of temperament and character, it will not get better. It will get worse, as power intoxicates Trump and those around him. It will probably end in calamity—substantial domestic protest and violence, a breakdown of international economic relationships, the collapse of major alliances, or perhaps one or more new wars (even with China) on top of the ones we already have.

Eliot A. Cohen is a former Bush administration lawyer under Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. By no means should we disregard his analysis, but it is from the outset nearly stereotypical in its partisan and personal interest: Good for him, you know, because he is not surprised. And, hey, pat him and his friends on the back, because they were right: The problem is not President Trump’s policies, but his temperament, as his policies demonstrate. It is not his program, but his character, as his program makes clear.

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The One About a Spare Cerebellum

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

This is … er … a lede:

Here’s a horrifying little story to kick off your weekend: A 16-year-old girl in Japan recently had a tumor surgically removed from her ovary — and when her doctors split it open, they found a tiny brain growing inside.

Or, you know, as the headline from Science of Us explained, “Doctors Found a Tiny Second Brain Growing Inside This Woman’s Tumor”.

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The Donald Trump Show (Somebody Stop Me)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“I don’t know, you tell me. You know what? Why don’t you ask Hillary if she cares that cows can’t digest corn?”

Bill Scheft

You know, it’s a lot funnier to actually attribute it to Donald Trump, but there isn’t really a good way of doing that anymore. There is, to the one, Poe’s Law; there is, to the other, Donald Trump’s easily confused legion.

But it’s the one funny line in the premature flaccidity. Nor ought we blame Mr. Scheft; flaccid is the way of the Trump, and pretty much all caricature of this emblematic strangeness extends into that range, eventually achieving its best expression as metacommentary considering Donald Trump’s seminal lack of viability.

Prematurity? Bravado? Mindbending foolishness? It isn’t so much superstition this time; rather, the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee at all tells us there is enough wrong in the world that vigilance serves us best.

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Image note: Detail of photo by John Locher/AP Photo.

Scheft, Bill. “Donald Trump’s exit interview: ‘I just found out what the job paid. $400,000. You’re kidding, right?'”

A Trivial Question About Your Coffee Cup

A coffee cup at Terra Vista. Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

Cari Romm explains, for Science of Us, a few details about why “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”:

As Heidi Mitchell wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal column, it’s fine to never wash your mug, as long as you’re not sharing it with anybody else. Better than fine, in fact: It may actually be the most sanitary option.

There are two caveats to that statement, infectious-disease expert Jeffrey Starke, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told Mitchell: One, it only applies if you’re not sharing the mug with anybody else. And two, “if you leave cream or sugar in your mug over the weekend, that can certainly cause mold to grow”―in which case, wash it out.

The bottom line, Romm suggests, is that “letting your mug live in its own filth may be a safer bet than the alternative: scrubbing it with the disgusting communal sponge in the office kitchen”.

And, yes, there is the bit about putting the sponge in the microwave, but this still begs a question.

Who says you absolutely must use a sponge?

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Romm, Cari. “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”. Science of Us. 3 November 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (One Man Wreck)

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It really is hard to keep up:

FiveThirtyEight undertakes the obvious question―“Is This What It Looks Like When A Party Falls Apart?”―and, well, the answer is about as vague as you might imagine, but the conversation is either worth your time or not.

(Maggie Koerth-Baker’s feature on “The Secret Lives Of Rocks” is probably a more enriching read while offering just as much utility in comprehending the election in general or Republicans in particular.)

Nate Silver offers a headline that ought to be encouraging: “Women are defeating Donald Trump”.

Jack Shafer of Politico reminds why the devastating Trump video footage is “The Least Surprising ‘Surprise’ of the Campaign”.

• Speaking of Politico that is where historian Josh Zeitz recalls Horace Greely, whose death shortly after the 1872 election represents “the last time a major-party presidential candidate was unable to make it to the actual vote of the Electoral College”, which in turn raises all manner of whispers and rumors about potential chaos, thus somehow inspiring the question, “Is a Historic Hail Mary Possible for the GOP?”

• The Associated Press, by dint of its reporting, obliges an interesting question about Rudy Giuliani: If “Giuliani says Trump is better for the US ‘than a woman'”, how much longer is society oblieged to give just how much of a damn about what Rudy Giuliani has to say?

Phillip Bump chastises Kurt Eichenwald for missing a deleted tweet, or something, and, really, there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong with being so definitive as “The Trump-Putin link that wasn’t”.

• Also at WaPo, Aaron Blake explains, “Kellyanne Conway just demonstrated how impossible it is to defend Donald Trump right now”, which by no means should be construed as any reason to feel sorry for her; she did this to herself.

• Speaking of self-infliction, Matthew Rozsa of Salon takes a moment or three to marvel at how “The big loser in Donald Trump’s war against the GOP is Ted Cruz somehow”, and the only part of that we might contest is the last word, which seems to suggest uncertainty, though in the end the difference between Ted Cruz and the nation is a matter of priorities―some people reasonably argue that the American people are the biggest losers, but the American people also did this to themselves, and in any practical question that doesn’t render itself moot, yes, Ted Cruz is, well, a big freaking loser. Oh, right; but I digress.

Jonathan Swan of The Hill broke an interesting headline: “Trump campaign CEO wanted to destroy Ryan”.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)