Pruitt’s corruption is long-standing

He’s got a history of sweetheart real estate purchases and loans in Oklahoma, reports the NY Times. This strikes me as unusual. Pruitt was a state senator in 2003, making no more than $38,400 per year. Yet somehow he came up with 25% of the purchase price for a AAA baseball team:

Pruitt, 35, became part-owner of the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A franchise Wednesday when he and partner Bob Funk bought the 76 percent of the team owned by Gaylord Entertainment Co.

[snip]

The sale price of the RedHawks was not disclosed, but it is believed to have surpassed the minor league record of $11.5 million paid for the Albuquerque Triple-A franchise three years ago. Funk and Pruitt only recently formed The Oklahoma Baseball Club, LLC, which will formally operate the ballclub.

Pruitt, who received his jurist doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 1993 and was elected to office in 1998, is the club’s managing general partner and will be involved in day-to-day operations while continuing his duties as minority whip.

That, however, is not even close to the most questionable deal Pruitt made or got while legislating. Nope. He got a $100,000 discount on a $475,000 home he purchased with friends from a corporate lobbyist (he does seem to get good housing deals from lobbyists — see his $50/night rent from one in DC when he first became EPA Administrator). That 100K loss was picked up by the lobbyist’s employer, SBC/AT&T. Funnily enough, SBC was lobbying the Oklahoma legislature about deregulating its ability to raise rates and to keep a bribery case against it from being reopened. Pruitt voted with the company’s interests on both issues. Here’s his house:

Mr. Pruitt’s home in Oklahoma City when he was a state senator. The house, which had belonged to a lobbyist, was held by a shell company registered to Mr. Pruitt’s business partner and financed by a bank an associate of his ran.
Credit: Brett Deering for The New York Times

His record while in the legislature indicates he engaged in financial ventures that would seem to be beyond his income.

During his eight years as a Republican state senator, Mr. Pruitt also upgraded his family residence in suburban Tulsa from a small ranch-style home to a lakefront property in a gated community. In addition, he bought a sizable stake in a minor league baseball team, and took a second job at Mr. Wagner’s corporate law firm. Mr. Kelly’s bank, SpiritBank, would be there for much of it — providing financing for Mr. Pruitt’s Tulsa home and his stake in the baseball team, as well as the mortgage for the Oklahoma City house.

Mr. Kelly, who was recently banned from the financial industry for banking rule violations, is now at EPA with his friend Mr. Pruitt, administering the Superfund program. How a lifelong banker is qualified to manage the cleanup of environmentally-damaged sites around the country is left to the reader’s imagination.

Pruitt is an ambitious man who appears to be out to feather his nest and live as comfortably as he can, doing so not by dint of hard work but by living off the people’s dime.

The continued lowering of standards in government

The Trump Administration seems to take pride in finding people to nominate for important positions who aren’t really qualified to do them. We’ve seen judges who’ve never issued an opinion until now, we’ve seen wedding planners appointed to oversee federal funding for housing, and we’ve seen talk-show hosts nominated to be head scientist at the US Dep’t. of Agriculture. Even in this partisan era, you’d think some Republican Senators, even one Republican Senator, might have felt that the person selected to run the 20-billion-dollar National Aeronautics and Space Administration should have some scientific background and proven management abilities beyond running a small museum in Tulsa. But no, on a 50-49 vote they confirmed former US House member Jim Bridenstine to lead the agency. He’s apparently a space enthusiast, which is good, but he’s also a quibbler about climate change:

Yesterday Bridenstine got a grilling on the subject, particularly from Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. Asked repeatedly (watch here beginning at the 1:30:10 mark) whether he thought human activity was the main cause of recent climate change, Bridenstine looked like an animal trying to wriggle free of a trap. Virtually all scientific organizations, including the American Meteorological Society, the National Science Foundation, and the American Geophysical Union, have no problem with such a clear statement. But when the Senator pointedly asked the NASA nominee “What is the scientific consensus on climate change?” Bridenstine waffled: “I think right now we’re just scratching the surface as to the entire system of the Earth…” Frustrated, Schatz gave up. Even though NASA itself says the consensus is very strong, Bridenstine, for whatever reason, couldn’t bring himself to say it. He was evasive to the point of dishonesty.

Wonderful. NASA isn’t a regulating agency, but it provides a lot of the data Earth Science professionals use. What’s this guy going to say or do when some newly-acquired data is put into a report confirming that humans have increased the rate of climate change? We’ve seen reports suppressed before for political reasons. Not by NASA, but I remember a report the Department of Homeland Security issued a few years back which determined that the terrorist threats America had most to fear were from right-wing extremist groups; conservative Republicans in Congress raised such a fuss the report was pulled.

Just another example of the malfeasance of Trump and the people who voted for him.

Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention covered Dylan

And did it damned quickly, too. This was recorded live at the Troubador in LA in February of 1974. Two versions were released, one on the Sandy Denny box set Who Knows Where the Time Goes in 1985, and the other on her anthology A Boxful of Treasures in 2004. It first appeared on Dylan’s soundtrack album for the film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which was released in 1973.

Pruitt’s former Chief of Staff talks

And Congressional Democrats demand answers from Pruitt. They wrote a letter to him.

Read the whole thing. The sense of entitlement Pruitt exhibits is astonishing. This is a guy who is, after all, just another lawyer from Oklahoma.

He apparently decided the taxpayers could and should pay for his travel destinations.

“Find me something to do,” were the instructions Mr. Pruitt gave his staff, after telling them he wanted to travel to particular destinations, the letter says, quoting Mr. Chmielewski, who was expected to sign off on the trips.

It’s likely he runs for Governor of Oklahoma at some point, so he “directed your staff to find reasons for you to travel back to Oklahoma so that you could be in your home state for long weekends at taxpayers’ expense.”

Those are just two of the many many issues the Democrats have with this grifter.

Trump hires smart people

From the New York Times, Saturday:

…legal experts and White House officials say that in Mr. Pruitt’s haste to undo government rules and in his eagerness to hold high-profile political events promoting his agenda, he has often been less than rigorous in following important procedures, leading to poorly crafted legal efforts that risk being struck down in court.

[snip]

Six of Mr. Pruitt’s efforts to delay or roll back Obama-era regulations — on issues including pesticides, lead paint and renewable-fuel requirements — have been struck down by the courts. Mr. Pruitt also backed down on a proposal to delay implementing smog regulations and another to withdraw a regulation on mercury pollution.

The EPA action that made the headlines last week was the rollback of Obama-era rules that were intended to cut vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases. Well, Pruitt and his team put together a “38-page document filed on Tuesday that, experts say, was devoid of the kind of supporting legal, scientific and technical data that courts have shown they expect to see when considering challenges to regulatory changes.” By contrast, when the EPA proposed the rule it did so in a “1,217-page document justifying its implementation of the regulation included technical, scientific and economic analyses justifying the rule.” Even more ridiculously, “most” of those 38 pages consist of

arguments quoting directly from public comments made by automaker lobbyists, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Global Automakers, that the pollution rules will be unduly burdensome on the auto industry, as well as public comments from Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi.

Oh. Well then. If the rule might require the industry to do something it doesn’t want to do, then of course it should be stopped before it takes effect.

…it does not contain what environmental experts say is the critical element of a legally strong justification for changing an E.P.A. regulation: Technical analysis of both sides of the argument leading to a conclusion aimed at persuading a judge that the change is defensible.

I guess we should all be thankful these people are stupid. They can’t do as much damage as clever people can.

Pruitt’s job failures

Politico has an article which might relieve some of us who are infuriated with EPA’s Scott Pruitt as much for the regulations he’s trying to roll back as for his dishonesty and lack of ethics. It’s titled The Myth of Scott Pruitt’s EPA Rollback, and it explains that despite the seemingly daily press release from EPA announcing another Obama-era rule being overturned, it’s not that simple. Rules and regs take years to write and are subject to public comment periods of months, and reversing them requires the same thing with litigation added to the mix.

That’s not to say he hasn’t done serious harm, because he has.

It’s true that Pruitt has had some success transforming how the EPA pursues its mission, communicates with the public and enforces its rules. He has used his discretionary powers to give factories more deference when they apply for permits, states more control of their air quality compliance and industry-friendly officials more sway on EPA’s science advisory boards. He’s sent a clear message throughout the agency to be more accommodating to businesses, a message that has helped persuade hundreds of its career public servants to retire. And he has abruptly halted the EPA’s focus on combating climate change, its top priority in the Obama years. He was the leading internal advocate for Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, although the withdrawal won’t take effect until November 2020, so it probably won’t stick if Trump doesn’t get reelected.

The elimination of regulations may take so long he’ll be out of his job before the discussion stage has gotten truly started.

Pruitt’s problem is that major federal regulations are extremely difficult and time-consuming to enact, and just as difficult and time-consuming to reverse. The rulemaking process can take years of technical and administrative work that Pruitt and his team have not yet had time to do.

Despite the claims from his PR shop, he’s not gotten nearly as much done as he claims he has, nor is he likely to if he keeps up his propensity to spend taxpayers’ money like water.

Lyin’ Trump lies again

Trump is on this tear about Amazon and the Post Office, and he’s fired everyone who’s willing to tell him he’s making a fool of himself by getting his facts wrong or lying. For starters:

Last year alone, Amazon supplied $7 billion of the Post Office’s $19.5 billion in revenue.

So obviously Amazon and the Postal Service have a special relationship, but it’s not an exclusive commitment. Amazon delivers many of its packages in bulk to US Postal Service distribution centers, where those familiar-looking white trucks take care of the last mile.

Then there’s his claim that the Post Office negotiated a horrible below cost deal with Amazon. No, dogbreath.

It’s illegal for the Postal Service to ship anything below cost thanks to the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.

That claim that Amazon pays “little or no taxes to state & local governments…?” Not so, you halfwit. Amazon pays the federal corporate tax and collects taxes in all 46 states where sales taxes exist, plus the District of Columbia. (This excludes Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.)

But what about his whine that Amazon uses the Postal Service as its “Delivery Boy?” Guilty! But so does everyone who puts anything into a blue mailbox! Why, funnily enough, that’s what the Postal Service is supposed to do! Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution (the one signed in 1789, Trump, you dolt) says “The Congress shall have power to…establish post offices and post roads.” The Postal Service was established in 1792. It authorized delivery from Post Office to Post Office. In 1863 Congress passed a law which

provided that free city delivery be established at Post Offices where income from local postage was more than sufficient to pay all expenses of the service. For the first time, Americans had to put street addresses on their letters.

By June 30, 1864, free city delivery had been established in 65 cities nationwide, with 685 carriers delivering mail in cities such as Baltimore, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. By 1880, 104 cities were served by 2,628 letter carriers, and by 1900, 15,322 carriers provided service to 796 cities.

Okay, that took me about 40 minutes to research and type. I realize that our Presidential dotard has no patience for such things. In fact, I doubt he has the patience even to read this post. Nor, apparently, does he have any people working for him who are willing to tell him (generously) that he’s got his facts wrong, or (rudely) that he’s a damn fool and a liar.

I don’t work for him, so I will so state. He’s a damn fool and a liar.

Sound adventures

I bought a 19-inch TV (Price: $73) for the bedroom. The thing barely fits on the riser (I had to put it on a riser because there’s not enough space on top of the stereo cabinet to put a TV and a cable box side-by-side), but it does. I probably shouldn’t get a cat, since it would be sure to knock the TV off.

I discovered that a major flaw in television flat-screen technology is that the things are so shallow the internal speakers suck.

I headed out to look at soundbars but couldn’t figure out where I’d place one which wouldn’t block the sensors on the front panel of either the TV or the cable box or both.

I thought about using a couple of red-and-white RCA-plug cables from the TV to the stereo receiver to use its speakers, but I didn’t feel like dragging the receiver out and fiddling with plugs at the back.

I suddenly remembered (AHA!) that about four CPUs ago I got a pair of computer speakers with my purchase. I dug those out of their previously never-opened box, attached one end to the Audio Out receptacle on the TV and plugged the power cord into the last available slot on the surge protector, and Voila, Volume!

I’m feeling clever and frugal. Please don’t disabuse me.

The Decline and Fall of Sears Roebuck

This is similar to what I have seen when entering or descending the escalator to my local mall’s Sears store at ground level. I would swear it was like this as recently as last week. No more. It’s gone from this

to this

There were two televisions on display, and I was told I shouldn’t buy the smaller one since “we don’t have any new ones.” The sales associate told me they’d downsized electronics because of competition from Walmart and from Amazon. I can understand not wanting to carry expensive inventory, although that hasn’t keep them from stocking hundreds of washers, dryers and refrigerators, not to mention the dozens of mattresses they have on hand.

It seems to me it’s one more surrender to a changing retail world, and I suspect Sears is not much longer for that mall. JC Penney moved out about ten years ago, Liberty House was bought by Macy’s, Borders went bankrupt. Now we have TJ Maxx and Ross.

This does not bode well.