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The Dangers of Trump’s Approach to Burden Sharing

[ 59 ] February 16, 2017 |

It seems a bit anti-climatic after today’s Presidential performance, but I have a piece (co-authored with Abe Newman) at Vox’s “The Big Idea” section on burden-sharing. The title is somewhat misleading: the crux of our argument is that the benefits of burden-sharing are overblown, the context in which the Trump Administration is pushing for it are dangerous—especially in Europe, and the US derives important benefits from the asymmetry in capabilities it enjoys with its security partners.

The argument for “burden sharing” — that American allies, who are much richer in both absolute and relative terms than when the United States established the current global security architecture, should pay a larger share for their own defense — is far from new. During the primaries, Bernie Sanders called for American allies to do more, and Hilary Clinton pledged to work with NATO partners to get them to meet the 2 percent of GDP spending targets affirmed at a 2014 NATO summit in Wales. (In fact, there is considerable variation on how much NATO members spend on defense. Some, including Greece, Estonia, and Poland, easily meet the target. Others — such as Hungary, Canada, or Slovenia — spend closer to 1 percent of GDP.)

But the Trump administration’s statements and dispositions seem to go further than previous calls for burden sharing. Many allies — especially those on the front line with Russia, like the Baltic States and Poland — are extremely worried that Trump intends to in effect abandon long-standing commitments.

Go read, if so inclined.


I think I’m still in denial that this is actually happening

[ 269 ] February 16, 2017 |

Even though I suggested a year and a half ago that it very well could.

Therefore I’ll outsource to the always essential Josh Marshall:


This is that rare time when I think the cliched phrase is appropriate: That press conference speaks for itself. There’s very little I can think to add. It all amounts to a confirmation of what most of us already know. This man is not emotionally or characterologically equipped to serve as President. He lacks the focus, the ability to commit to even a passable amount of work without immediate emotional gratification. Thus his decision to hold a campaign rally in Florida on Friday. (It’s literally a campaign event, put on by his 2020 reelection campaign). Trump lacks the emotional resilience or toughness to deal with what is the inevitable criticism and difficulties of being President, which – lets be clear – are great.

These different deficits all feed upon each other. He lacks the steadiness for the job.

There are credible reports of Richard Nixon being in this sort of state in the final weeks of his presidency. But Nixon, to give him his due, was at the center of the greatest political scandal in American history, bearing down on him for months and pushing him toward the greatest political disgrace and humiliation in his nation’s political history. He was overseeing the Vietnam War, witnessing various domestic civil disturbances, grappling with foreign policy blowups which neared superpower confrontations. There was a lot going on. Trump has been President for less than four weeks. Aside from domestic, media driven and other crises of his own making, virtually nothing has happened.

But the man who just appeared before the press for a free-ranging airing of grievances looked tired, sullen and half broken. His bracing insistence that everything is going perfectly in his White House sounded desperate and bizarre.

He’s coming up on one month down and 47 to go.

If there’s any justice in the world, most of the Trumpkins will be far enough away from the nuclear explosions to die slow deaths from radiation poisoning.

Another New, and Bad, Equilibrium

[ 87 ] February 16, 2017 |

Eric Levitz has an amusing post that also has a serious conclusion:

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.02.45 PM

He continues:

This is a point that the president’s critics should take seriously. Even if one thinks that the FBI served the public interest by leaking in this specific case, the principle that our unelected law-enforcement agencies should not publicize the details of ongoing investigations is one worth protecting. For now, the FBI’s leaks are merely alerting the public to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies — and, thereby, making it more politically difficult for the president to quash existing inquiries into that matter.

But how else might the FBI use its power to selectively reveal investigatory information in the future? It is not impossible to imagine the agency actually swinging an election over baseless insinuations, by disclosing bits of information in a misleading way.

Even if it hadn’t swung the election, Comey’s grossly irresponsible and unethical actions served to demonstrate the substantive value of the rules and norms he violated. His selective interventions into the election undermined American democracy with horrible results. But obliterating the norms is also going to mean more actions by factions within the FBI to undermine elected officials. It would be much better if the old norms had held, even now that interventions are more likely to hurt Trump than help him. But expecting unilateral disarmament is unrealistic, so once the norms go it’s generally impossible to restore them. The damage Comey inflicted on American democracy will have repressions that extend well beyond the bad outcomes of the Trump administration.

No, it Really is that Bad

[ 206 ] February 16, 2017 |


My default blogging mode is pretty snarky. I guess, in that respect, I’m an old-school academic blogger. The common approach now seems to be professional and scholarly. But sometimes it’s appropriate to set aside the snark—not in favor of scholarly detachment, but to articulate warranted fears.

The United States is facing a major institutional crisis.

While at least some of the leaks we’re seeing about the Trump Administration emanate from factions within the White House, others are coming from the professional civil service—most notably the intelligence community. All of these leaks suggest a White House plagued by incompetence, insularity, and paranoia.

People are searching for scapegoats. But the Cossacks work for the Czar and a fish rots from it’s head down. Trump, as E.J. Dionne wrote yesterday, is simply “unfit to serve.” It’s not just the leaks that suggest this. It’s what we witnessed, through the eyes of patrons paying for access, at Mar-a-Lago. It’s the unhinged Tweets through which Trump riles up his supporters, disrupts diplomacy, and showcases his authoritarian dispositions. It’s a senior White House advisor channeling Carl Schmitt while he reads from cue cards on national television.

But the leaks are, in fact, at the heart of the current crisis. Various conservatives claim that this is a war of the “deep state” against a ‘change agent.’ Some argue that that the revelations about Flynn were a dead-hand effort by the Obama Administration to save the Iran nuclear-weapons deal. This is a profound misreading of many things, including what an actual deep state looks like. But it’s how dysfunction and civil-service blowback play out in a highly polarized environment.

Indeed, some GOP officials are doing their best to avoid serious oversight. Representative Jason Chaffetz has signaled a preference for going after those leaking information. The House GOP voted against even closed-door evaluations of Trump’s tax returns. Because, GOP officials claimed, it would create a slippery slope.

This may be the “standard playbook” with unified government, but nothing is “standard” about the current moment.

Democrats, in general, see the leaks as the only way to get to the truth given Republican and White House intransigence. Many key disclosures have come in the wake of Trump administration falsehoods, or attacks on the intelligence community. The difficulty here is simple. There’s nothing “good” about the status quo. Members of the civil service should not be at war with a new administration. Members of the civil service should not have to be at war with a new administration. And recall that Trump played a major role in starting this conflict by making clear that his priors—and need to avoid cognitive dissonance—take precedence over US intelligence findings.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Trump wants to put a completely unqualified loyalist in charge of a “review” of the intelligence community.

Bringing Mr. Feinberg into the administration to conduct the review is seen as a way of injecting a Trump loyalist into a world the White House views with suspicion. But top intelligence officials fear that Mr. Feinberg is being groomed for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies.

Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, according to current and former intelligence officials and Republican lawmakers, had at one point considered Mr. Feinberg for either director of national intelligence or chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine service, a role that is normally reserved for career intelligence officers, not friends of the president. Mr. Feinberg’s only experience with national security matters is his firm’s stakes in a private security company and two gun makers.

This kind of action would look strange—even foolish—in normal times. In the Trump administration, it seems downright sinister. Multiple press outlets report that long-standing communication between Trump advisors and Russian agents goes well beyond Flynn. While defenders focus on the lack of evidence of active collusion, this is a bit of a red herring, especially. but not only, given that Trump publicly called for Russia to help defeat Clinton.

Beyond that, we have many reasons to believe that Trump’s business interests are becoming intertwined with the Presidency. Not simply in the form of crass moves to “cash in,” such as hiking the price of Mar-a-Lago membership or trying to assist Ivanka Trump’s line of apparel, but in the kind of ways that affect US national security.

These operations reflect a serious breakdown in the long-standing faith in the direction of American policy by some of the country’s most important allies. Worse, the United States is now in a situation that may be unprecedented—where European governments know more about what is going on in the executive branch than any elected American official. To date, the Republican-controlled Congress has declined to conduct hearings to investigate the links between Trump’s overseas business partners and foreign governments, or the activities between Russia and officials in the Trump campaign and administration—the very areas being examined by the intelligence services of at least two American allies.

Some details about Trump’s business partners were passed to the American government months ago. For example, long before the president’s inauguration, German electronic surveillance determined that the father of Trump’s Azerbaijani business partner is a government official who laundered money for the Iranian military; that information was shared with the CIA, according to a European source with direct knowledge of the situation.

Of equal concern to our allies is Trump’s business partner in the Philippines, who is also the special representative to Washington of that country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte. This government official, Jose E.B. Antonio, is the head of Century Properties, which in turn is a partner with the president’s business in the construction of Trump Tower at Century City in Makati, Philippines. According to people with direct knowledge of the situation, a European intelligence service has obtained the contracts and other legal documents in the deal between the Trump Organization and Antonio. That deal has already resulted in large payments to Trump’s business, with millions of dollars more on the way—all coming from an agent of the Philippine president.

The financial relationship between an American president and the Philippine government comes at a time when the historic alliance between the West and the Southeast Asian country is under great stress. Since the election last year of Duterte, a campaign of slaughter has gripped the Philippines, with death squads murdering thousands of suspected drug users in the streets. The carnage, which intelligence officials have concluded is being conducted with Duterte’s involvement, has been condemned throughout the Western world; the Parliament of the European Union and two United Nations human rights experts have urged Duterte to end the massacre.

There are a number of directions all of this could go. Consider three broad possibilities.

In the first, things worsen. The damage to the United States—at home and abroad—proves profound. One scenario: continued disruption and paralysis, while Trump enriches himself. This results, whether in 2018 or 2020, in sufficient Democratic victories for deadlock, investigations, and other forms of ‘harm mitigation.’ Another possibility is a slide toward soft authoritarianism, starting with the eviscerating of the intelligence community and spreading into other branches of the civil service. As we jump from shock to shock, Trump, as well as Bannon, Miller, and other loyalists, ratchets up the threat level—for example, they scapegoat Muslim Americans, engage in diversionary uses of force, launch investigations against their opponents—until we reach an inflection point. Then, who knows?

In the second, things get better’ Adults take firm control over the National Security Council. Eventually, Trump’s inner circle decides that they need seasoned hands to oversee the White House. We get an increasingly normal Republican administration, albeit with a Justice Department more committed than any before to rolling back civil and voting rights. Perhaps the economy is doing well enough that Trump wins a second term, and the GOP becomes increasingly “Trumpist”—but that Trumpism looks not all that different from where the GOP was in the first place.

The third looks like the second, but is really a variation of the first. That is, the adults solve the day-to-day competency problem, but can’t ameliorate the fundamental dispositions of Trump and his inner circle. So we get kleptocracy, ethno-nationalist governance, and much greater democratic backsliding—but with trappings that make it possible to attract a stable plurality, or majority, of support.

Regardless of how we look back at this period in four years, we should not forget that, right now, on Day 26 of the Trump administration, American democratic institutions are in crisis. We need to mobilize, and organize, to defend them. We must demand oversight, and we must demand that the public learn to what degree this smoke hides raging fires.

Morality Plays Need Cartoon Villains, Even if They Have to be Invented

[ 453 ] February 16, 2017 |


I fully endorse everything Erik says about 1)the contest between two ideologically indistinguishable left-liberals over who will take a position whose importance tends to be vastly exaggerated, and 2)how re-ligating the primaries — from the perspective of support for either candidate — is both counterproductive and tends to turn people’s minds into mush.

This interview contains the reductio ad absurdum of seeing the DNC race through the prism of the Assassination of Saint Bernard Sanders by the Neoliberal Coward Hillary Clinton. Most of the words here aren’t really worth engaging with. I’ll leave it to you to determine whether Democrats are DOOOOOOMED stories will hold up better than the identical stories told about Republicans in 2008, and the argument that “Hillary Clinton sucks” is the only acceptable thing to discuss about the 2016 elections is obviously useless retrospectively (many variables determined the outcome of the election in addition to the limitations and tactical errors of the Democratic nominee) and prospectively (Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee in 2020, so problem solved!) But this is revolting:

You’ve got Keith Ellison, [who] in many ways is a very promising figure. He has an idea of remaking the party from the ground up and registering people to vote. Rebuilding the party at the base. Ellison is being challenged by Tom Perez, the secretary of labor under Obama — soon to be replaced by a fast-food executive. It’s all so grim. Perez is a guy who wanted to race-bait Bernie Sanders, but now is running against the black Muslim guy on some kind of white identitarian grounds — it makes no sense at all.


Right! It’s like termites eating the house from within. It’s about to collapse. Democrats were very complacent about it during the campaign. They were convinced that the Republican party was a “dumpster fire,” a party in meltdown. No, the party meltdown is their own. Ellison has at least a strategy for building from the bottom up. Perez is a top-down kind of guy. Very Clintonite. He pretends to be very pro-labor, but not really. We now just parenthetically see the SEIU, which has been a very important part of the Democratic coalition, about to cut its budget by a third.

Much of this — like the idea that there’s a disagreement between Ellison and Perez about whether it’s desirable to register voters — is just silly. The idea that Perez wanted to “race bait” Sanders is a ludicrous distortion of some banal political observations. But what’s appalling is the assertion that Perez isn’t “really” pro-labor. This is either risibly ignorant or flatly dishonest. As Erik has said, Perez is almost certainly the most progressive and effective Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins. He used his regulatory powers to advance the interests of labor in many important ways. (Of course, when your stock in trade is minimizing the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties at a time when differences are massive and getting bigger, ignoring this is crucial.) Before that, he was a very progressive and effective head of the Civil Rights Division. To assert that Perez is a phony who isn’t really pro-labor is an absolutely disgusting smear completely at odds with his record, as disgusting as portraying Ellison as an anti-Semite or claiming that Ellison isn’t a real midwestern populist because you know.

But, of course, since this isn’t really about who will be the DNC chair, anything as mundane as Perez’s actual record and actual positions is beside the point. Bernie is truth, Bernie is beauty, Hillary is the antithesis of truth and beauty, that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. In this context Perez and Ellison are just stock figures in an ongoing re-enactment of the 2016 primaries, and people engaged in this rather lame hobby will project what they need to onto the actors. If you need to morph Tom Perez into Rahm Emmanuel to make the fantasy more vivid, I guess that’s what you have to do.

Ellison and Perez are both excellent as American public officials go, and I have no idea which is a better fit for the (not really very important) DNC job. Symbolically, the fact that the head of the DNC is coming down to two candidates from the left of the party should make it clear that the question of whether the direction of the party should be left of 2008 and way left of 1996 has been settled in the affirmative. That some people on the left for whom despising the Democratic Party is a central element of their political identities will refuse to take “yes” for an answer shouldn’t distract the rest of us going forward.

Bernie on Trump and Russia

[ 28 ] February 16, 2017 |

Senator Sanders is making sense:


[ 2 ] February 16, 2017 |

Multinational task force in the 24th biennial Rim of the Pacific. By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian T. Glunt. Public Domain.

Latest at the Diplomat takes a look at a report on US naval partnerships:

As the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) closes the gap with the U.S. Navy, how can the United States optimize its maritime partnership programs?

The consulting firm Wikistrat (where I am a senior analyst) recently ran a simulation on how the United States could better leverage existing maritime partnerships, as well as develop productive new relationships. The simulation included members of a variety of organizations inside and outside the United States, and expected participants to play roles from both U.S. and international perspectives.



[ 28 ] February 16, 2017 |


After Fidel Castro died and my response of “Castro did this that was good and he did this other thing that was bad” was picked up by conservative media as “Leftist protestors mourn Castro’s death!”, human malignancy Tucker Carlson wanted me to come on his show. I did not even reply. And there’s a good reason for that, which is obvious when watching anyone foolish enough to go on the show, such as the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Pareene speaks wisely:

Also, maybe don’t appear on Tucker Carlson’s show in the first place?

If you’re a person who strives to be honest and forthright in your work, and especially if you are a person who is not a trained and experienced professional on-air personality, you are at an immediate disadvantage the moment you agree to be on a cable news show, especially one hosted by someone utterly lacking in shame. You, the ambushee, receive no benefit from agreeing to appear on a bad cable news show as a designated punching bag. You get nothing, unless you’re really excited to get a free ride in a town car to a TV studio. Maybe if you really want someone to apply a lot of pancake makeup to your face but you are too nervous to ask someone at the Macy’s counter, appearing on Fox News to be harangued by a washed-up fraud is worth it.

Otherwise, there’s no upside to this sort of thing, besides maybe, if you’re lucky, a decent, post-show, setting-the-record-straight blog post. No matter how smart and conscientious you are, you are not equipped to fight back effectively, because you are playing a rigged game.

Ideally, no one should ever agree to be on cable news, ever, especially the sort of people who really want to be on cable news, all of whom should be in jail. But normal, decent people should, at the very least, stop agreeing to appear on shows like Tucker Carlson Was Cheaper And Less Likely To Sue For Sexual Harassment Than Most Of The Alternative Host Options For This Slot.

Journalists, bloggers, reporters, random people whose beliefs or appearance can be easily caricatured: Next time that booker emails you, just say “fuck off.”

Now I actually regret not responding to Carlson’s booker, telling her what a terrible person she is.

Day 25

[ 99 ] February 15, 2017 |

Just the random thought that it is day 25 of tRump the Unpresident’s Presidency, the administration has already achieved front page WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS MODE headlines, and the putrid pumpkin is complaining about the press and leaks. Because in the abuser’s tiny little mind, revealing the bad behavior is the only crime. And he’s too damn stupid and vain to issue the standard lines for Aide Caught in a Scandal and shut up.

And it is all self-inflicted.

So naturally he’s going to Florida (again) and this time he’ll hold a MAGAnificent rally.

President Donald Trump’s visit to Melbourne has been confirmed.

He will appear at a rally that begins at 5 p.m. Saturday in the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Doors will open at 3 p.m.


Volusia County Republican Party Chairman Tony Ledbetter, who is a volunteer coordinator for the Melbourne event, advised people who want to see the president to get there early.

As there are limits on how many people can fit in the hangar building, “just because you have a ticket doesn’t guarantee entrance,” Ledbetter said.


He said the president is likely to talk about his early accomplishments as president and his plans for the future.

Or you know, just talk. For a very long time. About whatever. But it will be a really classy and tremendous whatever – You’ve never seen anything – and let me tell ya. Clinton couldn’t. It’s going to be the biggest whatever in history.

#MIPL and the death of shame

[ 45 ] February 15, 2017 |

mercer island

For today’s story of the death of shame among the privileged, we need to start with some background:

The above is an image of Mercer Island. For those unfamiliar with the topography of the Puget Sound region: Seattle is a long, thin city; around 20 miles from its northern to southern border but about 3-6 miles East to West, bounded by water on either side: Puget Sound to the West, and Lake Washington (which extends slightly beyond Seattle both North and South) to the East. This lake sharply separates Seattle from its Eastern suburbs, which have for some time been the location of many (but not all) of the wealthier sections of the region, with the middle class and historically more downscale suburbs generally located to the North and South of the city. Lake Washington has but one island: Mercer. At approximately 13 square miles and a population of around 25,000, Mercer Island is the most populous island on a lake in the United States. Culturally and economically, Mercer Island belongs squarely on the Eastside, as it has become one of the wealthier towns of its size in the country, with an average household income well north of 130,000 and an average home value of 1.4 million. It enjoys excellent schools and parks, and is made up almost entirely of low-density single family homes.

Long ago, Mercer Island was primarily rural. One of the first major projects was a Gilded Age opulent resort, the Caulkins Hotel, for Seattle’s elite. In 1908, a “Japanese houseboy” (sic) in the employ of the Caulkins took offense at some unspecified act of verbal abuse from hotel management, and in retaliation stuffed a large number of oily rags in a chimney, causing the hotel to burn down. Left behind, however, was an extensive dock that spurred some development in the island’s Northwest corner, which eventually incorporated as “East Seattle.” The island remained accessible by private boat and by steamboats such as the Atlanta, which connected Mercer Island to Seattle well into the 1930’s. A bridge to Bellevue on the Eastside was completed in 1928, and, following pressure from prominent islanders, the construction of the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial bridge, named for WSDOT’s second director and journalist Edward Murrow’s older brother, in 1940, then the largest floating bridge in the world. (Today, it is second only to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, a second Lake Washington crossing that doesn’t connect to Mercer Island, just a few miles to the North.) In 1976, the bridge became part of I-90. A much wider second bridge was added in 1989, dramatically increasing capacity. This was Followed almost immediately by the sinking of the original Murrow bridge in a storm over Thanksgiving weekend–a dramatic event I recall watching live on television as a teenager. The Murrow bridge was repaired/replaced, at great public expense, by 1993, giving I-90 its current capacity. The 1940 bridge was largely paid for by a bond paid off by tolls, which ended after about 10 years. The new bridges were not.

Presently, these bridges and the freeway segment they form give Mercer Island residents, on average, the shortest commute times of any city in the region, a particularly remarkable statistic for an island connected to the mainland via a high-traffic bridge, with virtually no residents who work on the island itself. How do they pull off this remarkable feat? Location is part of it; the island is very close to downtown Seattle to the West and Bellevue, the largest city and second-largest job center on the Eastside, to the East. While traffic on the bridge can be quite brutal during rush hour, Mercer Island residents have a unique arrangement that allows them to access the HOV lands Westbound to Seattle as SOVs. This arrangement, codified via a memorandum of understand during negotiations over the construction and future plans for I-90 in 1976, was always meant to be temporary: the center lanes of the new bridge, reversible for increasing peak direction capacity, were designed explicitly with eventual light rail in mind. (The temporary nature of the arrangement was, in particular, highlighted by the Federal Highway Administration, whose regulations don’t generally allow for this kind of arrangement). Several decades later, the time has come: construction is scheduled to begin on Eastlink, which will take these center lanes for rail from downtown Seattle various Eastside locations, with a stop on Mercer Island.

Construction of Eastlink necessitates taking the center lanes currently used for HOV, and last month WSDOT told the city formally that their SOV freeloading days are over: they will no longer have uniquely privileged access to HOV lanes, and will be forced to access the city the way the rest of plebes do: in normal, high volume SOV lanes. (Or by bus, but who are we kidding?) The Seattle Times reported on this back in December:

Mercer Island officials insist they’re not asking for special treatment, but for the transportation agencies to honor agreements that date to 1976. Direct access to the express lanes and thick sound walls and a massive lid were part of a mitigation package agreed to after Mercer Island sued over the planned expansion of I-90 from five to eight lanes more than two decades ago.

The negotiated settlement was meant to compensate the island for the noise, pollution and loss of prime real estate at the north edge of its downtown, said Bissonette. The access was also an acknowledgment that I-90 is Mercer Island’s only connection to the surrounding region.


But the FHWA in August said it wasn’t a party to any of those agreements. Daniel Mathis, the agency’s Washington division administrator, in a letter to the city, said that allowing solo Mercer Island drivers access to the new I-90 HOV lanes would violate federal law that generally restricts access to transit, carpools and motorcycles.

The feds noted that Mercer Island has 15 entrance and exit points to and from I-90 and will have the same number once the new HOV lanes are completed.

The good people of Mercer Island, it should be noted, voted for the ST2 package that authorized and funded Eastlink in 2008, and have been paying taxes for it since 2009. But a couple of years ago, their discontent was becoming apparent. Sound Transit, as a regional agency beholden to various local politicians, has a habit of bending over backwards for the municipalities it serves, even at the cost of sensible transit policy (ie, routing near a freeway, rather than where people actually live and work, so as to “minimize disruption from construction), but Mercer Island’s requests have been remarkable. From two years ago, they included:

Permanent SOV access to HOV lanes
Permanent exemption from I-90 tolling
Resident-only parking at the Link Station
Complete abandonment bus transfers on Mercer Island
Dedicated and guaranteed seats for Islanders on Metro and Sound Transit buses

As Shaner notes, each and every one one of these privileges would be entirely unique to Mercer Island: Sound Transit often has projects that disproportionately benefit residents of a particular community, but nothing in their mandate current configuration suggests they can or should restrict access based on the address of the user. The “bus transfer” issue is a particularly important one; for many Eastside bus routes headed for downtown, it will make more sense–providing shorter commute times for riders and saving service hours that can increase frequency or coverage–to terminate routes that used to go into downtown Seattle at an Eastlink station, and this has always been the plan. For a lot of Eastside routes, the easiest and fastest connection will be Mercer Island station. This, of course, would have auxilliary benefits for the Mercer Island transit user–their light rail station would also be a hub for one seat rides to a variety of Eastside destinations. (The Northlink line, under simultaneous construction, has a similar plan for buses coming from points North to Seattle; put the riders on the train at Lynnwood, and save them from being stuck in traffic on the bus. Mercer Island opposes this plan, however, because they don’t want to deal with the impact of bus transit. In contrast, Lynnwood openly embraces the good fortune of being a future transit hub, and has aggressively upzoned around the planned Lynnwood station, in hopes that the excellent transit access of there will create a node of dense walkability the sprawling suburb currently lacks. Mercer Island’s station will be located in their already-existing small downtown commercial area, and they’ve planned for light rail in a different way: downzoning their downtown area with a new two story limit on new construction, in order to protect their fair citizens from the horror of seeing any transit oriented development on their way to a comfortable, easy 10 minute commute into the center of Downtown Seattle.

Formal notification from WSDOT that, in compliance with FHA regulations, the special HOV access would end in June, when the center lanes are lost and HOV lanes are moved, came last month. On Monday night, Mercer Island’s city council voted unanimously to sue Sound Transit and WSDOT to stop Eastlink construction, a multi-billion dollar project in the works for nearly a decade that they themselves have voted for. There is no doubt this change will adversely effect traffic on the island and commute times for Islanders, but of course this simply means they’ll no longer get an exemption from living in a high-traffic, high-congestion city. No more special access for SOV polluters just for living in the richest city in the region.

The suit is pretty shameless, and is probably best understood as a stalling tactic and/or a shakedown to get more ST “impact” money toward a new ramp. Playing hardball, against the greater good, to fight for the interests of those you represent is politics. The staggering shamelessness comes from the actual citizens who showed up to the meeting. Erica C Barnett documented the atrocities via twitter, storified here.

A few of my favorites:

And now for the coup de grace. The award for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence in shamelessness goes to some unnamed Mercer Island resident whose comment Barnett correctly highlighted:

Hanging on to this award in the Trump era will not be easy, but this guy may just have a chance.

Reasonable Moderate Sam Alito!

[ 64 ] February 15, 2017 |


In addition to Trump embracing Steinesque anti-vaccination silliness that Scott mentions below (and that was in the original draft of this post), we have Reasonable Moderate Sam Alito understanding basic science.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito delivered a fascinating keynote speech at the Claremont Institute’s 2017 annual dinner on Saturday night. Alito, who received a Statesmanship Award from the conservative think tank, devoted much of his address to criticizing his bêtes noires, including environmental regulation, affirmative action, the “media elite,” the European Union, and emergency contraceptives.

But then Alito went off the rails. He declared that he would provide two examples of this alleged regulatory overreach. The first was a fair illustration of his point, involving water regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. The second was Massachusetts v. EPA. In that case, the Supreme Court found that carbon dioxide is a “pollutant” within the scope of the Clean Air Act, allowing the EPA to regulate it. Alito dissented from the 5–4 decision. And in his speech on Saturday, he summarized his frustration with the majority opinion:

Now, what is a pollutant? A pollutant is a subject that is harmful to human beings or to animals or to plants. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide is not harmful to ordinary things, to human beings, or to animals, or to plants. It’s actually needed for plant growth. All of us are exhaling carbon dioxide right now. So, if it’s a pollutant, we’re all polluting. When Congress authorized the regulation of pollutants, what it had in mind were substances like sulfur dioxide, or particulate matter—basically, soot or smoke in the air. Congress was not thinking about carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.

Alito’s comments here are straight out of the climate change denialist playbook—and were rejected in Massachusetts v. EPA, for good reason. The Clean Air Act defines “air pollutant” as “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical [or] chemical … substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air” and “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” In its decision, the Supreme Court correctly recognized that carbon is a “chemical substance or matter” that is “emitted into” the air and “endanger[s] public health” by contributing to rising global temperatures. There is no textual support for Alito’s assertion that the law was meant to be limited to “soot or smoke.”

But what’s really odd about Alito’s comments on Saturday is that he seems to have forgotten key details of the case. Massachusetts v. EPA was not, contra Alito’s intimation, an example of “a massive shift of lawmaking from the elected representatives of the people to unelected bureaucrats.” To the contrary: The case marked a departure from the usual deference that courts afford administrative agencies. Instead, it constituted a triumph of an independent judiciary. What Alito forgot to mention in his speech was that, at the time, the EPA refused to regulate carbon. Massachusetts, already suffering from the effects of climate change, sued the EPA, demanding that it enforce the Clean Air Act. Those “unelected bureaucrats” at the EPA were refusing to enforce a law passed by the people’s “elected representatives.” And the judiciary stepped in to ensure that the bureaucrats followed the law.

It’s a real wonder the Republican Party hasn’t repudiated Trump….

Winner of the Week: Dr. Jill Stein, MD

[ 52 ] February 15, 2017 |


No wonder Stein thought Hillary Clinton was the more dangerous evil — after all, would Clinton have been willing to stick it to BIG VAXX like Trump?

On Wednesday, Kennedy said that he’s been contacted by the Trump administration three times since their original meeting in January. “They tell me that they’re still going forward with a commission,” Kennedy said, adding that he “can’t tell” whether it will happen. BuzzFeed News has asked the administration for comment on these claims.

But in a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Wednesday that included the actor Robert De Niro, Kennedy argued that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, in cahoots with journalists, have been denying the dangers of vaccines, fueled largely by money pumped in by a powerful pharmaceutical industry. He called the public health agency a “cesspool of corruption” and “a vaccine company,” that hid science from the public. To that end, Kennedy announced the “World Mercury Project Challenge,” offering $100,000 to anyone who could find a scientific study that demonstrated the safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines in children and pregnant women.

“What we’ve been told is not science. It’s more akin to religion. It’s orthodoxy,” Kennedy told an audience of perhaps two dozen journalists, and several thousand people watching the livestream on his group’s Facebook page. “We need to break this impasse.”

Make America whooping cough again!

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