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HTML5 logo with cat claw scratch

Tech: A Welcome Respite

It’s long past time for me to return to technical writing, if only because I need a respite from the battle against Trump and his evil minions.

It helps that there is a lot to be excited about—in a good way—in the tech world. The Node community seems to be moving beyond its early growing pains and is starting to stabilize. There’s still occasional drama, but not enough to make you scream in horror and run away.

My beloved SVG is really coming into its own with widespread support. I’ve been waiting years for this. There are great libraries to make it easier to build applications, but for me, the holdup has always been browser support. Now, I can party.

CSS! Can you believe what you can do with CSS now?  Not to mention that the W3C has really its act together when it comes to documenting what’s happening with specs.

Speaking of specs…HTML is no longer held hostage by a tin-plated dictator.  I’m sorry, did I say that out loud? I did notice that the working group mailing list is extremely quiet nowadays. This is because all the action has moved to GitHub. Probably more efficient. Not as fun.

Excellent news about the W3C and IDPF merging their efforts.

The vision to align Publishing and Web technologies and create a new roadmap for the future of publishing became official today with the announcement that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) have combined organizations.

 

Protest against Gorsuch appointment

Don’t Make Gorsuch into a Purity Test for Democrats

I normally agree with much of what Think Progress writes, but not in one of its latest pieces on how Senate Democrats stand on Gorsuch appointment. It’s interpretation of their stand is obvious from subheadings of “Team Spine”, “Team ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”, and “Team Trump”.

I am not happy with a Gorsuch appointment because of his strong beliefs against the Chevron Defense. This legal standard has allowed federal agencies to survive challenges to laws typically related to the environment and endangered species. He’s also a conservative judge when we had a chance to appoint a moderate who would actually make decisions based on the law, not ideology.

At the same time, Gorsuch is a much better option than some of the judges Trump was considering. And these latter judges may be up for consideration in the next few years if another Justice retires or dies. Gorsuch has demonstrated a willingness to buck conservatives in decisions if he interprets the law in a way that’s independent of their reasoning.

If I were a Democratic Senator, I wouldn’t vote for Gorsuch, but I wouldn’t filibuster his appointment, either.

By not voting for Gorsuch, I’m signaling that I believe the seat he’ll feel is a stolen seat. I’d want him to know that this “stolen seat” legacy will follow him throughout his years, and his decisions. I’d want him to think about this legacy, especially in light of his professed love of the law. I’d want him to remember that Merrick Garland is highly qualified, more experienced, and was lawfully appointed by the President of the United States.

However, by not filibustering him, I am acknowledging that he is a better option than what we could face from Trump. It’s a long two years until the Senate race when we can hopefully take back the Senate.  The Senate Republicans will destroy the SCOTUS filibuster rule if Democrats filibuster Gorsuch. Guaranteed.

Gorsuch will still be judge, but we’ll have lost the ability to force in-depth, stringent confirmation hearings for future appointees; hearings that may cause some Senate Republicans to question whether what’s being said in these hearings is worth the possible hit in their upcoming re-election bid. Because there’s a whole lot of Republicans coming up for re-election along with the Trump administration in 2020.

With the filibuster in place, Senate leaders are going to be more willing to allow for lengthy, robust questioning during the committee hearings, in hopes of appeasing those who might be thinking of filibustering the appointment. Without the threat of filibuster, why should they waste time when they know the control the votes to just vote the person in?

A longer confirmation process may expose information that not only is game changing for Democrats but could be game changing for some Republicans. Republicans who might actually join the Democrats…especially if they’re coming up for re-election.

That’s my take. Others, including many Democratic Senators, have different takes. Regardless of how each Senator handles the Gorsuch appointment, one thing I’m adamant about: I’m not turning this into a purity test for Democrats.

Purity tests, inspired by Sanders and sledgehammered by Jill Stein, helped us lose the election and put Trump into the Presidency. Trump’s Presidency has already hurt people. Trump’s Presidency has already killed people.

That Garland isn’t a Supreme Court Judge is the Republicans’ fault. That Gorsuch and not Garland is the current choice is Trump’s fault. Trump, his cabinet, and the Republican-controlled Congress are, and will remain, my only targets. My entire focus is to limit the damage this Congress and President can do, and to kick them all out in the next three federal elections. To me, nothing else matters.

Too much is at stake to play purity games.

Photo courtesy of Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0

 

 

Airport protest

No, Trump and his Admin are not planning a coup

We have so many real problems and serious dangers associated with a Trump administration partnered with a compliant Congress. We don’t need to generate fictional dangers based on happenstance and conspiracy.

Yonatan Younger wrote a compelling and well-sourced text laying out the various arguments that what Trump’s administration is doing is equivalent to performing a coup. His conclusions:

  1. Trump was, indeed, perfectly honest during the campaign; he intends to do everything he said, and more. This should not be reassuring to you.
  2. The regime’s main organizational goal right now is to transfer all effective power to a tight inner circle, eliminating any possible checks from either the Federal bureaucracy, Congress, or the Courts. Departments are being reorganized or purged to effect this.
  3. The inner circle is actively probing the means by which they can seize unchallenged power; yesterday’s moves should be read as the first part of that.
  4. The aims of crushing various groups — Muslims, Latinos, the black and trans communities, academics, the press — are very much primary aims of the regime, and are likely to be acted on with much greater speed than was earlier suspected. The secondary aim of personal enrichment is also very much in play, and clever people will find ways to play these two goals off each other.

He has valid points. However, where he fails is in overestimating the capability of the Trump Administration.

What can be seen as a deliberate attempt to transfer all power to a tight inner circle is more easily explained by understanding that Trump’s administration is the most inexperienced administration to take over the Presidency in modern times. This inexperience is compounded by the fact that our new President is not the brightest bulb in the box, but believes he is so by his own narcissism. His very volatile, one can even say infantile, mentality, which cannot handle any form of challenge, leads  the more rational members of his team to abrogate responsibility and common sense.

People close to Trump are not only inexperienced, but many came into this administration with extremist, authoritarian views. Yes, Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn come to mind.  They’re as likely to override standard procedure just because they can, rather than because they’re interested in the government working effectively and efficiently. They can do so because the United States government is based on the idea that the best and brightest are chosen to lead—not a bunch of drunk, stupid keystone cops.

Regardless, none of the Trump administration actions presupposes a coup. All of their actions are occurring within a Constitutional framework and abetted by a complicit Congress.

When Trump signed his abysmal executive order leaving many legal immigrants and dual citizens stranded in airports, he did so because he can issue any executive order and the federal government will seek to uphold it unless a court intervenes, or the law is so blatantly outside the norm, federal employees refuse to enforce it. Trump’s Muslim ban is Constitutionally challenged, but not necessarily sufficiently abnormal for federal employees to refuse enforcement.

Courts did intervene. Multiple courts. If there are federal employees who disregard a court order, it’s because they’re confused or incompetent, not because of some grand scheme on the part of Trump/Bannon—both of whom who are also confused, and incompetent.

This fiasco came about because of decisions we voters made. Because we didn’t vote, or because we didn’t care, or Jill Stein convinced people Clinton would be worse, or we wanted to mix things up by putting someone like Trump in charge, we made a choice. Or I should say, people in some states, made a choice.

We have a government led by a profoundly incapable leader, surrounded by zealots and syncopates, with a broken, incomplete leadership. This administration was put into place by an antiquated electoral system that devalues the individual voter. But it’s all legal, and allowed.

Trump’s administration is an abomination, but it’s not a coup.

Photo courtesy Kenneth Lu CC BY 2.0

 

Storm with lightning

Trump Transition Leaves Chaos in Wake

Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.Update:

The AP has news that the EPA must submit all studies and data to review by political appointees.

Former EPA staffers said Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.

Earlier:

It’s not been a week and already the Trump transition team has left chaos in its wake.

It has issued a series of gag orders, which in themselves, aren’t unusual for a transition. As the New York Times notes:

Longtime employees at three of the agencies — including some career environmental regulators who conceded that they remained worried about what President Trump might do on policy matters — said such orders were not much different from those delivered by the Obama administration as it shifted policies from the departing White House of George W. Bush. They called reactions to the agency memos overblown.

However, the orders went beyond the typical “don’t make statements to the press for the department until the department head is in place”  normal for a Presidential transition. They included orders freezing the publication of scientific reports and data, as well as information that is normally given to the public as part of the organization’s functions.  That they did so is probably due to the team’s inexperience, rather than an attempt to block citizen access to the data. The end result, though, is the same: concern and confusion.

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Dakota pipeline protest

Trump Signs Executive Orders Reversing Dakota and Keystone Pipeline Decisions

Trump has signed executive orders reversing President Obama’s administration’s decisions on both the Keystone and the Dakota pipelines.

The Dakota pipeline is currently under review by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement on the route and alternatives. Trump can’t just upend this effort with an executive order—not without Earth Justice or other environmental organization easily being able to get an injunction against the order in court. I expect a court challenge against this exeutive order within a day

Unfortunately, Obama’s Keystone Pipeline decision could be more easily undone. The original State Department review of the Pipeline didn’t find it to be an environmental risk. Later, State found that the Pipeline would run counter to the US efforts to combat climate challenge, but this finding was based on cheap oil. Once the price of oil rises, to $65.00 a barrel or more, than this decision would no longer be considered viable. We could challenge a Keystone decision in court, but have less chance of success.

The claims about jobs associated with the pipeline are exaggerated. Yes, there will be construction jobs to build the pipelines, but, ironically enough, many of those jobs will most likely be filled by undocumented workers from Mexico. Construction is the second largest employer of undocumented workers in the US.

Once the pipelines are built, though, the number of jobs provided is tiny, measuring in the 100s, if that.

US energy costs won’t decrease, either, especially with the Keystone pipeline. Much of the refined gas, diesel, and jet fuel is likely to be exported out of the country.

What we will see are increased environmental costs. Companies are responsible for oil spills, but it’s uncanny how all too often, we taxpayers end up footing the bill for oil clean up. In addition, both pipelines are a major risk to drinking water, as well as vital aquifers for agricultural irrigation. Today, the Canadian government noted that one pipeline spilled 200,000 liters of oil in aboriginal land, following another major spill that shut off the supply of water to two major cities.

We’ll absorb the environmental damage, including the impact of the refining, yet only the oil companies will truly benefit.

Photo courtesy Fibonacci Blue CC BY 2.0

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