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    Trump Acts Crazy; Democrats Respond by Saying "Hold My Beer"

    Six months into the Trump Administration, I was committed to voting for wk彩平台登陆ver the Democrats fielded in the next election -- I was even going to eschew my usual quixotic Libertarian vote.

    Since then my views on Trump are mixed at best.   I still think his demeanor is appalling.  His trade policy is even worse than I had feared.  His demagoguery on immigration has only resulted in a gridlock that has left a total mess at the border.  His use of national emergencies to end-run democratic processes is a terrible precedent.  To be fair, there have been some good things.  I have been encouraged by some of the regulatory efforts in some of his departments -- in particular I would happily follow Sonny Perdue's lead and ship much of the Federal headcount out of DC and into flyover country.  And I think the tax cuts passed were largely structured in a sensible manner.  None of this silver lining, though, is enough to offset the bad things for me.

    But the largest change that has occured since my original vow has been the behavior of the Democrats.  Seeing the craziness in the White House, their response has been "You think that's crazy?  Hold my beer!"  The competition among mainstream Democratic candidates to one up each other with trillion dollar giveaways and absurd socialist programs is simply astounding.  Even my wife the New England Democrat -- who I am pretty sure has never checked an R box in the voting booth except maybe for Jeff Flake -- is horrified at the choices.

    I am exceedingly close to joining the Ostrich party and, after years of political engagement, just ignoring it all.

    America's Soft Power We Don't Even Realize We Have

    A while back I took at Teaching k彩平台登陆 course on Victorian Great Britain.  The professor said something about the Victorians that really stuck with me -- he said that the British never understood the soft power they had in the world.   The world wanted to dress British and emulate British manners.  They read British authors.  They desperately wanted to send their children to British schools.  Even the native revolutionaries in their colonies sometimes revolted in very British ways.  Sure the leaders of the Indian National Congress harbored enormous resentments against the arrogance of British power, but all their leaders were British-schooled and cast many of their arguments in terms from the British enlightenment.

    I was thinking about this a while back when I was in France and attended a show of local French artists.  As with much modern art, much of it incorporated bits of pop culture.  And about 98% of that was American and to a lesser extent British pop culture.  Sure, some of it was used ironically, but American culture is consumed everywhere in the world.  I must have seen 5 or 6 artists using Captain America imagery alone in their art in a not-at-all hostile or ironic way..  America in the 20th and 21st century is in the same position as the British in the 19th century, and we are probably just as unaware of that soft power and pissing it away just as surely with our slamming around the world like a bull in a china shop.

    And speaking of Chinak彩平台登陆, it is simply insane in my mind to turn them into our enemies.  Whatever the top Chinese officials are after, much of the population wants to be like Americans.  They want to come to our schools and wear our fashions and watch our movies and TV.  We have had several exchange students from Chinak彩平台登陆 live with us and they treat getting to spend time living in America like having hit the lottery.  We have watched one woman who goes by "Cat" in the US all the way from high school to college in America to getting a good banking job.  She first showed up at our house looking exactly like Ching "Honey" Huan from Doonesbury -- the hair, glasses, clothes, everything.  She now looks, dresses, and talks like any young American.  For a while her Instagram was dominated by pictures of her and her friends at Big 10 football games.

    I have been consumed of late with other things in my life, and really have not had the chance to address the increasingly insane extent of the Trump Administration's economic nationalism. But go to and scroll through them -- they do a much more eloquent job of defending free trade than I can.

    This is The Resistance's Real Failure (Assuming They Want to Make Progress on Their Issues, and Not Just Score Political Points)

    From even before day 1 of the Trump Administration, the "resistance" has proclaimed that Trump is an illegitimate President and anyone who even has civil discourse with him will be othered and humiliated.

    Readers know that I find Trump and his style to be distasteful, and believe he is dead wrong on immigration and trade, but the irony of the Resistance's position is:

    1. I am not sure there ever has been a President more open to a deal (at least on issues outside of his hot buttons like immigration and trade).  If one approaches him to bargain, he will bargain.  If one instead challenges his manhood, he is going to dig in his heels and likely childishly harden his position against whatever you support.
    2. There are very few things that Trump seems to have a hard-and-fast ideological position on, which tells me he is likely to act pragmatically (or in the case where he is resisted, vindictively).
    3. There is zero evidence that he is anything but a liberal on social issues  (OK, yes, he has been crass and offensive with women, but many other prominent social liberals have done the same thing).  I have gay friends who were horrified at his election, but I still don't see any evidence Trump has a problem with gay people. Prominent gay rights groups should go to the White House and could make some real progress (and then maybe create a Kickstarter campaign to help beef up Trump's Secret Service protection because Pence could be a real problem on gay rights issues if President).

    I have said all this for a while but am reminded of it from this story by Jacob Sullum entitled, ""

    Kanye West’s literal embrace of President Trump was all over the news last week. The president’s rhetorical embrace of criminal justice reform got considerably less attention, but may prove more consequential.

    In an interview with Fox News on the morning of his meeting with the rap impresario, Trump signaled that he was ready to go beyond “back-end” reform, which focuses on rehabilitation of inmates, and support “front-end” reform, which focuses on reducing sentences and sending fewer people to prison.

    The key to understanding Trump’s remarks is Alice Marie Johnson, whose sentence the president commuted in June at the behest of West’s wife, Kim Kardashian.

    Republicans Have A Learning Problem

    Trump supporters are complaining that similar immigration actions that were essentially ignored by the press under Obama are now taking up half the nightly news broadcast under Trump.  As an aside, this is only partially true -- the Trump Administration has antagonized and worsened what was previously a bad, admittedly ignored, situation.  But my main reaction is this:  Well, no sh*t.  What about the major news outlets reporting Republican actions differently than Democratic actions surprises you in the least?  Seriously, at what point do you accept this as totally expected behavior and plan around it?

    If I were CEO of, say, Exxon-Mobil (XOM), and I had my PR guy come into the room after a PR debacle and tell me that the press was not being fair to oil companies, that Apple (say) did the same things, I would retort the same thing I did above:  "Well, no sh*t.  What planet have you been living on?  The media has hated us and attempted to score points off us since 1972.  That is a FACT and it is your job to help this company navigate given this FACT."  I would fire the guy immediately.  His complaint would merely demonstrate he was a terrible choice to do communications for us.

    I don't understand why the Republican rank and file keep enabling this behavior from their party.  I am not going to tell them to support different policies, though I disagree with them.  But why do they keep accepting that these constant PR disasters are not the fault of their leadership, and that somehow the only way out is some sort of not-going-to-happen remaking of the media?  Conservatives like to think of themselves as hard-headed realists, but good God there is sure a lot of whining going on about stuff that ain't going to change any time soon.

    Woah! You Mean Illegal Activity That We Never Punish is Still Occurring?

    Democrats are having fun noting the hypocrisy (after all the focus in the last election on Hillary's email practices) of .  I will leave them to their fun.**

    But I will note that I am a huge supporter of FOIA and government transparency and from the very beginning I criticized Hillary Clinton's use of private email primarily because it was clearly done to evade government transparency laws.  We did not punish her for obvious violations, and we did not punish Gina McCarthy when she used private email as the head of the EPA to avoid public scrutiny of her contacts with environmental lobbying groups.  So we should not be surprised if lots of other people are doing the same thing.  Politicians would love to sweep all their private conversations under the rug if we let them.  We need to start charging people for this crime -- even one high-profile person to start pour encourager les autres would be a start.

     

    ** This is an example of the good side of partisanship -- someone is always in opposition.  Engadget never did a single article on Gina McCarthy or other Obama Administration officials evading FOIA through private email accounts, presumably because it was much more sympathetic to that administration.  But it does not like Trump so it is on the case.  Which is fine-- the watchdogs across administrations don't always have to be the same people, they just need to be there.

     

    Today, I Am Pissed At Black Lives Matter. They Aren't Doing The Hard Detailed Work Change Requires

    Like many of the people who are protesting today in St. Louis the acquittal of  Jason Stockley (please, let's hope it stays peaceful) I am angry about the:

    Smith tried to flee from Stockley on Dec. 20, 2011, following an alleged drug deal, authorities said. During the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.

    Stockley, riding in the passenger seat of a patrol vehicle with his personal AK-47 in one hand and department-issued weapon in the other, shot at Smith’s car, according to St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Susan Ryan and charging documents.

    At Stockley’s direction, the driver of the police car slammed into Smith’s vehicle and they came to a stop, court documents said. Stockley then approached Smith’s car and shot him five times with his service weapon.

    Stockley’s lawyers said he fired in self-defense because he believed Smith was reaching for a gun but prosecutors said the only gun recovered from the scene had only Stockley’s DNA on it.

    Stockley was acquitted of all charges today.  Just read the above and remember that Smith was not some terrorist about to detonate a nuclear weapon, he was involved in a drug sale.  And here is this police officer chasing him in gunzerker dual-wield mode, crashing his car into him and shooting him after stating his intention to do so over the radio.

    But I am also pissed off at BLM.  Why?  Well, I suppose if they encourage folks to violence today I will be mad at them for that.  But I am really mad at the total failure they have become as a change organization.  For years many lone voices have tried to point out issues with police violence and the lack of accountability for it.  BLM did a great job of substantially raising awareness of these issues through protests and disruptions.  But protest and disruption (and collecting donations) is all they seem to be able to do.  The time is long past that they need to be leading the hard work of renegotiating police union contracts and changing local laws.  BLM should have been ready for a day like today with a list of model legislation they can be waving in front of cameras saying this is the list of things we need to be doing in every city to prevent a repeat of this travesty.  Instead, all we will watch is more protests and violence.

    Why do I single out BLM?  Why is it their responsibility?  Because they have sucked all the oxygen out of the room.   They wanted to be -- and are -- the de facto leaders on this issue.  They get all the funding.  They get all the celebrity support.  And they are not doing jack except perhaps alienating people they will need to work with to make progress.  .  Lots of posturing, no ability to do the hard, detailed work to make change.

    Trump Administration Wants More Private Operation of Public Parks. Here Is What That Would Require

    A lot of people have been asking me about Secretary Zinke's statements about encouraging more private operation of parks.  First the good news, its a great idea.  Here is my standard 400-word essay on why:

    Should National Park’s be privatized, in the sense that they are turned entirely over to private owners?  No.  Public lands are in public hands for a reason — the public wants the government, not, say, Ritz-Carlton, to decide the use and character and access to the land.  No one wants a McDonald’s in front of Old Faithful, a common fear I hear time and again when privatization is mentioned.

    However, once the agency determines the character of and facilities on the land, should their operation (as opposed to their ownership) be privatized?  Sure.   The NPS faces hundreds of millions of dollars in capital needs and deferred maintenance.  It is crazy to use its limited budget to have Federal civil service employees cleaning bathrooms and manning the gatehouse, when private companies have proven they can do a quality job so much less expensively.  The US Forest Service, for example, has had private operators in over a thousand of its largest parks for nearly thirty years, and unlike state parks agencies or even the NPS, it is not considering park closures or accumulating deferred maintenance, despite having its recreation budget axed.  Why? Because its partnership program with private operators is a fundamentally sounder, lower-cost approach to park operations.

    In fact, such public-private partnerships are nothing new for the NPS.  The NPS was an early innovator in this field, and currently private companies operate many of the visitor services in parks, such as lodges and gift shops.  The US Forest Service innovation, which has been copied by many agencies including most recently California State Parks, has been to turn over operations of the whole park, not just the lodge, to a private company.  These are highly structured contracts, wherein the private company cannot modify the facilities or change fees without agency approval, and must meet a range of detailed performance goals.

    Most critiques of private park operations center around quality and fees.  While there certainly have been some isolated failures, in general the results have been quite good.  In Arizona, a recent poll by CampArizona.com ranked the top 10 public campgrounds in Arizona.  Of these, three of the top five were US Forest Service campgrounds run by a private operator, as was the top Arizona campground in Sunset Magazine’s “Best of the West”  (OK, I have to brag, these are all run by my company). As for fee concerns, state-run parks in California charge $30 for a no-hookup camp site.  Privately operated public campgrounds in California forests seldom charge more than $18.

    My company operates over 150 state, county, and federal parks.  I encourage you to take the “Pepsi Challenge” and see some of them for yourself.  They are well-run, generally with more staff than a typical state park, and have no significant deferred maintenance backlog.  Oh, and not a single one has a McDonald’s, a billboard, or a neon sign in front of a national monument.

    Now for the bad news:  I am skeptical any progress will be made, for several reasons.

    1. The rank and file of these organizations are .  For a couple of reasons.  First, people who work in government tend, through a self-selection process, to be people who are more confident in government solutions and more skeptical of private solutions.  Second, agency leaders are seldom judged on things like efficiency or customer service.  I read and act on every single negative review that comes in for our operations.  It is impossible to imagine the head of Arizona State Parks (which is about the same size as our company in terms of revenue and visitors) doing such a thing.  Agency leaders get their pay and prestige based on the size of their budget and headcount, and private outsourcing even of non-core functions works against this.
    2. Overcoming this skepticism takes a lot of hard work, organizational work the Trump Administration has shown itself either unable or unwilling to undertake so far.   As a minimum, change requires messaging that engages the rank and file, not just the Republican base.   In most lands agency, it would also require that they scrap their insanely useless (but time-consuming) planning processes in favor of a real portfolio planning process that assigns recreation lands to different customer segments (e.g. wilderness experience vs. high development) and then explicitly addresses where private capital and operating efficiency could help.

    The good news is that I think there is a path to success.  The privatization message should offer real benefits agency personnel care about (and I am pretty sure tax reduction is not one of these).  Privatizing things like bathroom cleaning would allow the agency to stop overpaying for routine non-core tasks and allow it to free up resources for things its employees (and the public) are passionate about, like addressing the enormous deferred maintenance account in most lands agencies and reversing crumbling infrastructure in parks.  Most agency employees joined with recreation or environmental science degrees and don't want to clean bathrooms or deal with angry customers anyway.

    For the public, recreators who like a lot of infrastructure and facilities are natural supporters of private operation and bringing in private capital to public lands, but the most passionate advocates for public lands are disproportionately folks who want wilderness experiences and distrust development.  That is why having a portfolio management process for public lands is so important.  The Forest Service, for example, makes every campground they own in the west look the same.  I can close my eyes and tell you what your Forest Service campground looks like even if I have never been there.  This is crazy.   Create something like a "Wild Camping" label and attach it to a subset of the portfolio and don't allow any development.  Even remove development.  Then have other sites for more developed camping.   Maybe sites that focus on first-timers or kids.  Maybe lower-cost value sites.  (People always assume that as a private operator, I want to develop everything, but I don't.  Sure I have places where we have cabins and showers and electricity at every site.  But I also operate pure primitive sites with no power, water, or even cell service.  Hell, in some ways I like operating the latter better -- less to go wrong.)

    One Onerous New Regulation Down, Zillions More to Go

    A while back I wrote about the Obama Administration's near exponential expansion of EEO reporting

     It takes the current EEO-1 (the annual exercise where we strive for a post-racial society by racially categorizing all of our employees) and makes it something like 15-20 times longer.  In addition, rather than simply "count" an employee as being on staff in a certain race-gender category, we now have to report their income and hours worked.  Either I will have to hire staff just to do this stupid report, or I will again (like with Obamacare) have to pay a third party thousands of dollars a year to satisfy yet another government reporting requirement.  This is utter madness.

    Get this -- the report has 3600 individual cells that must be filled in.  And this is in addition to the current EEO-1 form, which also still has to be filled out.  The draft rule assumes 6-7 hours per company per year for this reporting.  They must be joking.

    Fortunately, the Trump Administration :

    On Tuesday, the White House  a burdensome reporting requirement for employers that would have cost them  while yielding information of questionable value. It did so in rejecting changes to the EEO-1 form made at the end of the Obama administration.

    The White House Office of Management and Budget  that the pay collection and reporting requirements “lack practical utility, are unnecessarily burdensome, and do not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues.” It explained its reasoning in a letter to the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Victoria Lipnic.

    The Obama administration had claimed that rewriting the form to  for companies to check or fill out would help identify wage discrimination. But very little of the information it sought would have shed any light on potential wage discrimination.

    Cutting the Resources Without Cutting the Work

    When I was at consultant McKinsey & Co, one of their philosophies in doing cost reduction studies was that you don't cut staffing without first cutting back the work.  Identify the activities that don't need to be done or can be streamlined, change the processes to match, and then cut staffing.

    This, of course, is not the way it usually happens, even in good companies.  Most companies just whack staff counts by some percentage, perhaps across the board and perhaps weighted by intuitions as to where the company is fat.  In a good company with good managers and good incentives, the organization can generally be trusted to cut back on the least useful activities in response to the staff cuts.  But in bad organizations with poor incentives, one has no idea if high value or low value activities are being cut.  And in the government, you can almost be assured that when staff and budgets are cut, low-value activities are preserved while high-value core mission activities are cut.  In my world of public parks, staff cuts almost always lead to preservation of bloated headquarters staff while maintenance budgets and staff actually service visitors in parks is slashed.

    And then there is this on new rules being imposed by the Trump Administration on NEPA.   If you want to know why infrastructure projects almost never get started and public lands are seldom improved, NEPA is a big part of the reason.  It is something that is desperately in need of reform.  But the Trump Administration appears to be making the same mistake I discussed above,:

    Yesterday Greenwire  about how one of the new political appointees at the Department of the Interior issued a memo requiring that National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies (those Environmental Impact Statements you hear so much about) be completed in one year, and be no more than 150 pages long.

    If there were ever any doubts that the Trump Administration minions have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, this should put them to rest. Ostensibly intended to “streamline the regulatory process”, blah, blah, blah, its effect will be precisely the opposite; this one memo will delay and stop more projects than anything the environmental community has ever come up with. The activists may be livid, but I promise you that their lawyers are going, “Yee-ha!” I certainly would be if I were still doing NEPA cases.

    The NEPA and the hundreds of court decisions interpreting it are painfully clear on how detailed an EIS has to be. Putting artificial and arbitrary limits on an EIS will make it so much easier to show how the EIS does not “take a hard look at the environmental consequences,” contain “a detailed statement of any adverse environmental effects” of a proposed project, etc.

    Speech Restrictions Will ALWAYS Be Enforced Assymetrically

    One of the larger problems with speech restrictions is that they will always be interpreted and enforced asymmetrically.  Don't believe me?  :

    k彩平台登陆

    My guess is that these folks would not enforce this speech rule in the same way during the Trump Administration as during the Obama Administration.

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