“Houston’s perfect storm is coming — and it’s not a matter of if but when,” journalists wrote, a year and a half ago. “Why isn’t Texas ready?”

Former Houston mayor Bill White escapes his home moments after it floods on Sunday. White, 63, served as Houston’s mayor from 2004 to 2010. (Courtesy of Bill White)

David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

Op-Ed Columnist
“Houston’s perfect storm is coming — and it’s not a matter of if but when,” journalists wrote, a year and a half ago. “Why isn’t Texas ready?”
The story was a joint project of The Texas Tribune, an excellent local publication, and ProPublica, the deservedly well-regarded national group. Headlined “Hell and High Water,” it exposed the lack of preparedness, and downright denial, in Houston about flood damage. The project mixes maps and text, and you can dip into it briefly or dig into the details.
“We’re sitting ducks. We’ve done nothing,” Phil Bedient, a Rice University professor and storm-surge expert, says in the story. “We’ve done nothing to shore up the coastline, to add resiliency ... to do anything.”
The article isn’t perfectly clairvoyant — no story is. It falls into the common trap of exaggerating the economic effects of a news development that’s bad for other reasons. But the story offered an important — and, sadly, unheeded — message: Even though it’s possible to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, we’re instead making choices that aggravate them.
To give them their deserved credit, that story is by Neena Satija, Kiah Collier, Al Shaw and Jeff Larson.
In Slate, Henry Grabar points out that grasslands around the city could have absorbed some of the nearly 52 inches of rain that have fallen so far — had they not been cut by development. To make matters worse, he writes, officials “encouraged development in low-lying, flood-prone areas without regard to future risk.”
At CityLab, Tanvi Misra notes that the failure to prepare for floods often hurts low-income, minority communities the most. These communities “are most vulnerable to flooding, or near petrochemical plants and Superfund sites that can overflow during the storm. This is especially true for Houston.”
So far, Harvey has submerged an area greater than 15 times the size of Manhattan. “It’s basically impossible for any of us to get our heads around the scope of just how much damage there’s going to be when this is over,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes tweeted (although these maps, from The Times, give us a good idea).
On a more uplifting note, Time’s Maya Rhodan has the backstory of the Houston sheriff’s deputy whose helping of two small children ricocheted around social media.
In The Times. Frank Bruni writes, of Trump’s Texas trip: “The weather around him changes. The weather inside him doesn’t. It’s a warm bath of self-regard — the biggest ever, I’d wager — and it overrides everything else.”
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Lisa Lyneé Daniels on Houston’s imperiled students.

Source NY Times Opinion Page


Ivanka Backs Scrapping Equal Pay Measures

Ivanka Trump (Photo: Twitter)

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The Shrinking Presidency Of Donald J Trump

As President Trump formally launches his tax-reform drive this afternoon with a no-details, "vision-casting" speech in Springfield, Missouri, the self-inflicted wounds of the past 222 days are adding up. (Speech preview here, off embargo at 6 a.m.)
The "most powerful man in the world" is suddenly looking mighty powerless:
  • Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are going their own way on tax reform. Hill sources believe his original targets, including a 15% corporate rate, are dead.
  • Sec Def  Mattis didn't immediately embrace his full ban on transgender troops.
  • His Justice Department won't drop the Russia probe.
  • Courts won't allow his full Muslim ban.
  • Mexico won't pay for his wall.
  • Congress won't pay for his wall.
  • The Senate won't pass his promised health-care reform.
  • Gary Cohn and Sec State Tillerson won't tolerate his Charlottesville response.
  • North Korea won't heed his warnings.
  • China doesn't fear his trade threats.
  • CEOs won't sit on his councils.
  • Mexico and Canada won't bend to his will on NAFTA.

 Now imagine where Trump would be today if he had instantly (and only) condemned the racist violence in Charlottesville, blown off the Arizona meltdown rally, and held off on the Arpaio pardon till the usual protocol could be followed.
The press would be writing about a new, late-summer Trump who had managed two crises like a normal president, and cleaned house of the most toxic "America First" true believers. His Texas trip would have gotten a high grade, with his trademark brio and well-received remarks.

Source Axios.com


What's Ahead For Trump This Fall

President Trump's understaffed, self-conscious administration faces a cascade of crises and heavy lifts this fall that it's ill-equipped to shoulder simultaneously:
  • The once-in-a-century (or even millennia, per CNN meteorologist Tom Sater) Houston flooding could mean disruption and agony for months in the nation's petrochemical capital, with national economic repercussions that could disturb the current fragile reverie.
  • Charlottesville has torn open a topic that won't go away with a few free-expression rallies or statue removals. The issue promises to haunt the country and taint Trump.
  • Trump's response has also opened a deep wound within the administration. Economic adviser Gary Cohn, SecState Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been more public than others with their personal responses. But there is a deep sense of unease in many quarters.
  • The special counsel's work is becoming increasingly visible as he issues subpoenas, with real risks to the White House as he reportedly delves into financial transactions touching Trump and his family.
  • Most in the West Wing don't have a good sense of what's coming with the Mueller investigation. But veterans of past administrations warn that it's going to make the internal battles thus far look like child's play once the possibility of legal liability is in the mix.
  • The Hill agenda for September is punishing, with colossal fights on debt limit, government funding to avoid a shutdown, and the budget (to provide a reconciliation vehicle for a tax overhaul). Steve Bannon called it the "meat-grinder" month.
  • These fights will require complex tradeoffs, with the House and Senate leadership in the driver's seat. So the path to even getting to a tax reform bill is long and precarious. And Trump has little political capital outside his shrinking base.
  • The United Nations General Assembly in New York, with the year's biggest matrix of heads of state, hits in mid-September.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly has made rapid progress in shaping up the West Wing, but the internal ecosystem is still gelling.

Source Axios


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Roger Stone Says Impeach Trump, Get Ready for Civil War

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'Political Schizophrenia': A Tale Of Two Trumps

In the first 2 minutes of Thursday’s Morning Joe, the show began with a montage of the wild back-and-forth President Trump has shown in his tone and conduct throughout the week.
The show juxtaposed scenes from Trump’s speech about Afghanistan, his campaign-style rally in Arizona, and his address to the American Legion. The clips abruptly whipped back and forth between Trump’s recent calls for national unity, and the president’s inflammatory, off-the-cuff remarks in Phoenix.


Dodge City Believed in Strict Gun Regulations

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Wyatt Earp
The reputation of Dodge as a hell on earth with an overflowing Boot Hill dated from its time as the rowdy end of the track of the westward-building Santa Fe railroad. When things got out of hand, a city government was organized. Laws were drawn up banning livestock on the sidewalks; horses above the ground floor; public drunkenness and disorderly conduct; the carrying of guns within the town limits (all who entered had to place their weapons on pegs provided in most public places), and the discharge of firearms within the city limits except on such holidays as the Fourth of July and New Year's Day.
The gun toter was subject to being shot on sight by the town police. Strict gun control was vital for public safety. During the cattle boom of the 1870's and 80's, Dodge was the largest cattle market in the world. Cattle were brought up the trail from Texas to be loaded onto trains or driven north. The cowboys who drove the cattle had been on the trail for two or three months. They were paid their back salary and, as the movies would you have believe, they instantly spent it on whisky, women and cards.
The businessmen of Dodge understood the potential for violence in a town full of drunken cowboys who had just blown three months wages, Rebs in a Yankee town. This is why there had to be gun-control laws. Men like Wyatt Earp, Jim and Ed Masterson, Bill Tilgman and Mysterious Dave Mather had a reputation, and their presence on the police force made these laws stick.
Dodge's most celebrated killing occurred when Spike Kenedy, a Texas rancher, came to town to avenge an insult by Mayor Dog Kelly. He rode up to Kelly's cottage and fired through the door, killing not the Mayor, but a music hall entertainer known as Dora Hand. The subsequent chase by a posse ended with Kenedy's capture by the combined marksmanship of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. Kenedy's father, a partner in the King Ranch, came to Dodge, and is believed to have spent $50,000 on the release of his son, whose trial was held in chambers.
The collapse of the cattle trade meant the end of the fearsome police force. Dodge City today is the major agricultural center of southwestern Kansas.

Source: NY Times Letter To The Editor 1990


Bernie Sanders Voters Helped Trump Become President

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So What Did Trump Really Do On Vacation

1.     On August 12, 2017, the Department of Justice was granted a warrant to obtain a wide range of information about individuals who visited a website used to organize protests to President Trump’s inauguration. In addition to IP addresses for these 1.3 million people, DOJ is also seeking cell phone numbers, credit card information, even photos. This is not the first request by the Trump Administration for sweeping information about U.S. citizens— recall the demand to provide personal information about voters.
2.     On August 15, 2017 Trump issued an Executive Order overturning an Obama administration Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The standard ensured that when federal dollars build infrastructure projects, they factor in increased resilience against flooding from the best available climate science. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, it caused tens of billions of dollars in damage to their infrastructure. Preparing the next generation of infrastructure against storms that are already hitting our coasts not only helps them continue to function after a storm, but also saves us money in the long run.
3.     According to an August 10, 2017 report from the Environmental Integrity Project, the first 6 months of Trump's presidency has seen the Department of Justice file fewer cases against companies for violating the Clean Water Act, and they have also collected far less in civil penalties. The Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, compared to $30 million under the first 6 months of George W. Bush's administration, and $25 million in the Clinton administration’s first six months. In last week's Behind the Curtain we reported on how Wall Street regulators have similarly prioritized business interests over the protection of the average American.
4.       According to an August 7, 2017 Wall Street Journal report, financial regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have issued far fewer fines so far this year than during the same period last year. These entities regulate Wall Street and the financial industry. This decline in penalties issued to companies is in keeping with the Trump Administration’s prioritization of business interests over the average consumer.
5.     An August 7, 2017 news report highlights President Trump’s practice of establishing advisory committees to supplement federal agency work in areas ranging from environmental policy and transportation to voting laws. While this practice is permitted under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Trump Administration is not living up to the letter or spirit of that law. There are requirements to make certain information matters of public record, such as membership and meeting details, for example. Most of these commissions are also made up of non-government employees. For example, the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, charged with employment creation, is being led by Andrew Liveris who is the Chairman of Dow Chemical. The Administration is rarely releasing required information and some of the commissions are already targets of lawsuits because of this lack of transparency. This disregard for the Federal Advisory Committee Act adds another layer to the secrecy pervading this presidency. These commissions are reviewing and proposing federal policy and their work should not be hidden from the public.

6.       According to an August 1, 2017 Washington Post report, Secretary of State Tillerson has directed State Department leaders to review and update the department’s mission statement as part of an overall internal review. The redrafted mission statement, which is not yet final, omits reference to promoting democracy abroad. The mission statement essentially sets forth the purposes of the United States foreign policy. The only major edit to the current mission statement is the removal of the phrase“. . .just, and democratic. . .” This is not simply a matter of wordsmithing or editing. The State Department is responsible for explaining to foreign governments, those who share our principles and those who do not, the way we see our role in the world. A change in its message could have ugly consequences: it could embolden tyrants and undermine supporters of human rights and the rule of law.

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