Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Signal Boost: "White House’s 2018 Budget Plan Would 'Devastate' R&D, Says AAAS CEO Holt"

If you really needed any more explanation from a source outside President Unintelligible Central about why his budget would be especially hard on scientific and medical research, look no further than the following post from the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The double-digit percentage cuts President Donald Trump is proposing in his fiscal 2018 budget plan for science and technology programs would “devastate America’s science and technology enterprise” and weaken the nation’s economic growth, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said Tuesday.

Pointing to the budget blueprint the White House delivered to Congress Tuesday, Holt said, the plan, if enacted, would make steep cuts to science and technology programs and “negatively affect our nation’s economy and public well-being.” He cited several agencies and programs facing particularly “severe” cuts.

For instance, the proposal calls for sharp reductions in science and technology programs, including 11% from the National Science Foundation, which champions basic scientific research across all fields except medical topics; 22% from the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest biomedical research agency; and 44% from the Environmental Protection Agency’s science and technology programs.

“Slashing funding of critically important federal agencies threatens our nation’s ability to advance cures for disease, develop new energy technologies, improve public health, train the next generation of scientists and engineers and grow the American economy,” said Holt.

The Energy Department’s scientific research efforts also face deep cuts. Its Office of Science, the government’s central energy research agency, largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences and the home of a renowned network of national research laboratories, would be cut by 17% and its Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy would face a 69% reduction. The budget proposal also calls for the department’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy program to be eliminated altogether by fiscal 2019.

The Agriculture Department’s research programs were not immune to proposed reductions. Funding for the Agriculture Research Service, for instance, would shrink by 38%; the National Institute for Food Agriculture would face an 8% decrease; and the Forest Service research programs would be cut by 10%. The Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey, which maps the Earth’s systems to help officials monitor natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides, is slated to be cut by 15%.
  
At the Commerce Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a scientific agency, which uses satellite data to forecast and track severe weather and conducts research on oceans, fisheries and climate, would see funding fall by 9%, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology that leverages measurement science to advance innovation would see a 23% decrease.

Holt stressed that the budget proposal in now in the hands of Congress where it is up to lawmakers to accept, reject or shape, a reality that was on full display when the Republican-controlled Congress restored many of the cuts Trump outlined in his fiscal 2017 budget plan.

During an afternoon press conference, Holt noted that the administration’s budget proposal deviates from how the scientific enterprise has long been viewed. “It has been regarded as an investment that leads to economic growth and human welfare,” said Holt, noting that the fiscal 2018 plan “is completely contrary to the idea of investment.”

Holt applauded Congress for “prioritizing federal research and development” when lawmakers finalized spending on May 4 for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, which ends after Sept. 30.
He called on Congress to continue to make research and development investments a priority and “to once again act in the nation’s best interest and support funding for R&D in a bipartisan fashion – including both defense and non-defense programs – in FY 2018 and beyond.”

Signal Boost: "We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder."

Although the following Washington Post editorial co-authored by Mary and Joel Rich - the parents of murder victim and current conspiracy theory target Seth Rich - was intended to stop the nonsense being spouted about the circumstances of his murder, I'm under the sad impression that it'll fall on mainly deaf ears (for one thing, opportunistic ghoul Sean Hannity didn't give up repeating it even after Fox News did, so why should he stop now?) considering who it was intended for.

Regardless of that, the editorial bears repeating - especially since this is becoming more and more like Vince Foster all over again, and for no good reason other than what only a hardened cynic might be able to dredge up in their worst imagination.

Imagine living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Imagine having to face every single day knowing that your son was murdered. Imagine you have no answers — that no one has been brought to justice and there are few clues leading to the killer or killers. Imagine that every single day, with every phone call you hope that it’s the police, calling to tell you that there has been a break in the case.

Imagine that instead, every call that comes in is a reporter asking what you think of a series of lies or conspiracies about the death. That nightmare is what our family goes through every day.

Our beloved son Seth Rich was gunned down in the early hours of July 10, 2016, in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Bloomingdale. On the day he was murdered, Seth was excited about a new job he had been offered on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Seth had dedicated his life to public service, and he told us that he wanted to work on the campaign’s effort to expand voter participation because he loved our country dearly and believed deeply in the promise of democratic engagement. Seth had been walking around, calling friends, family and his girlfriend, pondering the broader picture of what the job change would mean. He wondered how he would pick up and move to New York City for four months, the strain that might put on his relationships, and how it would all affect the life he had built for himself in Washington.

We know that Seth was abruptly confronted on the street, that he had been on the phone and quickly ended the call. We also know that there were signs of a struggle, including a watchband torn when the assailants attempted to rip it off his wrist. Law-enforcement officials told us that Seth’s murder looked like a botched robbery attempt in which the assailants — after shooting our son — panicked, immediately ran and abandoned Seth’s personal belongings. We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth’s murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.
 Still, conservative news outlets and commentators continue, day after painful day, to peddle discredited conspiracy theories that Seth was killed after having provided WikiLeaks with emails from the DNC. Those theories, which some reporters have since retracted, are baseless, and they are unspeakably cruel.

We know that Seth’s personal email and his personal computer were both inspected by detectives early in the investigation and that the inspection revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks. Nor did that inspection reveal any evidence that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks or to anyone else. Indeed, those who have suggested that Seth’s role as a data analyst at the DNC gave him access to a wide trove of emails are simply incorrect — Seth’s job was to develop analytical models to encourage voters to turn out to vote. He didn’t have access to DNC emails, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, John Podesta’s emails or Hillary Clinton’s emails. That simply wasn’t his job.


Despite these facts, our family’s nightmare persists. Seth’s death has been turned into a political football. Every day we wake up to new headlines, new lies, new factual errors, new people approaching us to take advantage of us and Seth’s legacy. It just won’t stop. The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us.

To those who sincerely want to get to the bottom of Seth’s murder, we don’t hold this against you. We don’t think you are monsters, and we don’t think you are terrible people. We know that so many people out there really do care, don’t know what to think and are angry at the lack of answers.

We also know that many people are angry at our government and want to see justice done in some way, somehow. We are asking you to please consider our feelings and words. There are people who are using our beloved Seth’s memory and legacy for their own political goals, and they are using your outrage to perpetuate our nightmare. We ask those purveying falsehoods to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son’s murder.

Friday, May 19, 2017

In Memoriam: Chris Cornell, 1964-2017

I still have a hard time believing this.


I'm having an even harder one accepting it.







Schadenfreude: Roger Ailes

Again, I don't wish death on people I can't stand. However, I also refuse to fete the memory of assholes in a hypocritical manner after their passing, and I won't do it for Ailes, either.


It wasn't merely that Ailes made it possible for lunatics like Louis Gohmert or Michelle Bachmann viable forces in national politics via Fox News, but he also succeeded in making it possible - or even mandatory - for people to act like petulant 8-year-old bullies raging away on an uncontrollable sugar high in order to get elected to office. That also means that he made Donald Trump possible as well - and just look where that's gotten us all.


Oh, and then there's the entire sexual harassment thing as well, on top of all that other happy horseshit.


So if you want to see a eulogy, go look at Charles P. Pierce's. Or maybe the one from Deadspin is brutal enough.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In other "alternative facts" news, water is now dry

It seems that the biggest enemy of a President who changes his mind this rapidly on the efficacy of an agency's director is the institutional memory of the press. Witness this tidbit from a New York Times editorial, for example:

By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value. Certainly Mr. Comey deserves all the
criticism heaped upon him for his repeated missteps in that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

Mr. Trump had
nothing but praise for Mr. Comey when, in the final days of the presidential campaign, he informed Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. “He brought back his reputation,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “It took a lot of guts.”

Of course, if Mr. Trump truly believed, as he said in his letter of dismissal, that Mr. Comey had undermined “public trust and confidence” in the agency, he could just as well have fired him on his first day in office.

Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active
investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

The part about Comey being compromised by his own poor judgment is a relevant one, since earlier that day it was noted by several media outlets about what a belly-flop he took on the subject of the Huma Abedin emails. Granted, those mistakes were serious. Serious enough to probably cost Hilary Clinton the 2016 Presidential election, in fact. But not as serious as the fact that Comey wanted more money in order to expand the investigation into Russia's influence with the Trump administration, or the fact that Comey was supposed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday before he got axed.

And now he won't.

Funny how that works out, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Uh oh

Everyone's had more than one moment in their lives where national - or even international - events have the tone of the other shoe dropping, and I'm completely convinced that this might not just be a shoe; it might be the entire shoe rack:

The White House has fired FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump campaign and top aides.

"Today, President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.

"The FBI is one of our Nation's most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement," the president said in the statement.

Two points:

1) The oddest things about crown jewels is that if you're not paying attention somebody can very easily replace them with ones made out of paste;

2) Oh, Archibald Cox. A pity you passed away in 2004. I'm sure you'd be sending Comey a sympathy card with a pocket edition of the Constitution wedged inside (and the phone number of a lawyer to help with his future Senate testimony) about 5 minutes after he got axed.