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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,571

Journal Archives

The jobs report shows why the White House should stop touting its 'economic miracle'

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for this White House to stop selectively celebrating really noisy or possibly-anomalous-to-the-point-of-meaninglessness statistics. Especially ones that can easily reverse themselves, as we saw happen Friday.

A month ago, the Trump administration was crowing about an unusually good jobs report: More than 300,000 jobs were added in January, way above trend. (Job growth has averaged about 200,000 for the past several years.) This crazy-high number was evidence, the president declared, of the “economic miracle” he was overseeing.

As the White House elaborated in a news release at the time: “President Trump has delivered on his promise to reignite the American economy and usher in a new economic boom.” Job growth was “smashing expectations.”

Those who follow the Labor Department’s monthly jobs reports — as I have now for more than a decade — know they are extremely noisy. That is, they bounce around a ton from month to month, and the margin of error in the payroll jobs number is plus or minus about 115,000. So, way above-trend numbers for one month could be the start of a new “miracle” boom, but they are more likely to be an aberration that could quickly reverse itself. Which is why hailing one month of unusually strong growth (or alternatively, mourning one month of unusually weak growth) is always risky.


Trump thinks his supporters are the most gullible people on earth. Are they really?

I’ve got the perfect slogan for President Trump’s reelection campaign: “Promises Made, Promises Not Kept, But I’m Betting My Voters Are Too Stupid to Notice.”

Let’s take stock:

Trump promised to build a wall along the 2,000-mile southern border, with the cost of the “big, beautiful” barrier to be borne by Mexico. Trump made this pledge dozens of times in a call-and-response ritual at his campaign rallies. “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” he would demand, and the cheering crowds would yell the answer: “Mexico!”

Result: Not a single mile of Trump’s wall has been built. When Mexican officials made clear they would never pay a cent toward construction, Trump asked Congress for the money. Even with Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate for two full years, Congress declined to waste taxpayer dollars on the project. When Democrats took the House, Trump declared a “national emergency” in an attempt to steal funds from other projects. Still, despite what he claims, Trump has built no new wall.


One reason for Trump's foreign policy fiascoes -- his National Security Council is broken

National security fiascoes are piling up around President Trump. His summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un collapsed last week. In December, he announced a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, only to have his national security advisor publicly revise the plan. Last July, he endorsed Vladimir Putin’s assertion that Russia didn’t interfere in our presidential election — a stunning rebuke to the findings of U.S. intelligence services.

These are all signs that the National Security Council is malfunctioning. The NSC — the nerve center for creating U.S. security policy over the last seven decades — is intended to advise the president on strategies to prevent war, terrorism and economic disruption. The evident weaknesses of Trump’s NSC are increasing the risk that security threats or intelligence will fall through the cracks, leaving the nation vulnerable.

Since its earliest years, the NSC’s secret meetings in the White House have been the principal forum for presidents to discuss security and policy with military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Chaired by the president, the council includes the vice president, the secretaries of State, Defense, Energy and Treasury — but the president can add other federal officials as well. The council’s staff can rise to as many as 200 employees.

The NSC is an advisory group, however, and it’s up to the president to make good use of it. Trump doesn’t seem interested. Instead, he keeps belittling and contradicting the work of U.S. intelligence agencies. On Jan. 30, for instance, he tweeted: “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naïve when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! ... Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” This hostility significantly undermines the NSC’s ability to serve its historic function.


SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashes down in Atlantic Ocean and is recovered

Source: LA Times

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday morning and was picked up a little more than an hour later by a recovery ship, marking the last major milestone of a NASA test mission and precursor to future human spaceflights.

The hatch of the capsule, which did not have a crew aboard, closed on Thursday at 12:39 p.m. EST. The capsule then undocked from the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. Friday after a five-day stay. About five hours later, after a 15-minute de-orbit burn, the Crew Dragon capsule floated down into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida at 8:45 a.m. EST, buoyed first by two drogue parachutes and then by four main parachutes.

Two boats were nearby as the capsule touched down in the water to complete safety checks on the vehicle. SpaceX’s Go Searcher recovery ship, which is equipped with a helipad and medical treatment facility, lifted the Crew Dragon out of the water around 9:50 a.m. EST.

Shane Kimbrough, a former NASA astronaut who now leads various NASA recovery teams, said on a livestream of the landing that in the future, there will be less time between when the capsule splashes down and when it is picked up.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-spacex-crew-dragon-capsule-landing-20190308-story.html

Tesla's new Supercharger slashes charging times

Tesla is rolling out a third-generation Supercharger that is designed to dramatically cut charging times for its electric vehicles as it seeks to keep its edge over new competitors.

The V3 Supercharger, which was unveiled Wednesday at the company’s Fremont, Calif. factory, supports a peak rate of up to 250 kilowatts on the long-range version of the Model 3. At this rate, the V3 can add up to 75 miles of range in 5 minutes, Tesla said.

Improvements to charging times are critical for the company as it sells more Model 3 vehicles, its highest volume car. Wait times at some popular Supercharger stations can be lengthy. Early adopters might have been content to wait, but as new Tesla customers come online that patience could dwindle.

Tesla says its improvements will allow the Supercharger network to serve more than twice as many vehicles per day at the end of 2019 compared with today.


Obama Demands to See Trump's Elementary-School Diploma

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former President Barack Obama ignited a firestorm of controversy on Wednesday by demanding to see President Donald Trump’s elementary-school diploma.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Obama called on Trump to prove “once and for all” that he had completed a K-through-five program.

“While the U.S. Constitution does not require the President to have graduated from fifth grade, it would still be nice to know that he had done so,” Obama said.

By insisting on the release of Trump’s diploma, Obama joined a growing movement of so-called schoolers, who contend that Trump never attended school.


There's more at the link!

How badly are we being ripped off on eyewear? Former industry execs tell all

Charles Dahan knows from first-hand experience how badly people get ripped off when buying eyeglasses.

He was once one of the leading suppliers of frames to LensCrafters, before the company was purchased by optical behemoth Luxottica. He also built machines that improved the lens-manufacturing process.

In other words, Dahan, 70, knows the eyewear business from start to finish. And he doesn’t like what’s happened.

“There is no competition in the industry, not any more,” he told me. “Luxottica bought everyone. They set whatever prices they please.”


Juan Guaido Returns to Venezuela, Facing Threat of Arrest

Source: New York Times

Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who defied a travel ban and left the country more than a week ago, returned Monday in what could turn into a new showdown with President Nicolás Maduro.

“Back in our beloved homeland!,” Mr. Guaidó said in a Twitter posting from the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía, near Caracas, where he landed on a commercial flight from Panama. “We just got through passport control and will head where our people are!”

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Guaidó would be detained by government security forces. But Mr. Maduro’s government has said Mr. Guaidó violated restrictions on his travel and could face arrest.

Mr. Guaidó returned and was welcomed by cheering crowds in Venezuela as the Trump administration escalated its warnings to Mr. Maduro’s government not to carry out its threat to seize the opposition leader. Mr. Guaidó is recognized by President Trump and more than 50 other heads of government as Venezuela’s rightful president until new elections can be held.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/world/americas/juan-guaido-venezuela.html

February storms wash away drought conditions. Will San Diegans continue to conserve?

February storms have left California flush with water, relieving concerns the state could quickly slip back into the drought conditions that plagued it for much of the last decade.

Less than 3 percent of the state is now experiencing drought, down from nearly 84 percent just three months ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. At the same time, the state’s frozen reservoir of mountain snowpack is already 124 percent of average for the season.

San Diego County remains one of the few parts of the state to still be labeled as abnormally dry, according to the drought monitor. While rainfall this winter has already exceeded average, the region is still recovering from a severe deficit in precipitation, and researchers say impacts to vegetation and reservoirs linger.

Still, the San Diego region, which imports nearly 80 percent of its water, has more than adequate supplies to meet urban and agricultural demands. Water managers, in fact, said they are in talks over storing water the region gets from the drought-stricken Colorado River at Lake Mead.


Trump hates science. Sad!

Like many girls growing up in the late 1960s, I was intimidated by math and science throughout my school years and into college, where I avoided lab units in biology and chemistry whenever possible. But something happened that made me a late-blooming science fan. At age 57, cancer hit.

As I’ve written about before in the Los Angeles Times, I underwent the standard healthcare regimen for my condition (surgery, chemo and radiation), but the cancer metastasized anyway and I was given a “yearish” to live. Then, in July of 2015, I became a human science project, a participant in clinical trials at UC San Francisco, one of the top cancer research centers in the world. Today, I’m well past my overdue date, as are many of the other Stage 4 cancer patients, thanks to breakthroughs in immunotherapy and cutting-edge treatments that arrived courtesy of tenacious researchers, the lives of many mice and the evidence-based, peer-reviewed work of medical science.

All this is to explain my ever-increasing alarm at the level of scorn the findings of science now attract in the realm of public policy. President Trump and members of his revolving-door Cabinet have shown no let-up since 2017 in their disdain for scientific truths, mischaracterizing them as opinions that are somehow partisan in nature and expendable.

“The State of Science in the Trump Era,” just published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, says it all. “The administration is radically weakening processes that guide the use of science in policymaking,” it states. The report goes on to detail how U.S. scientists are being excluded from decision-making, removed from advisory committees at agencies such as OSHA, the FDA and the EPA, hampered in the collection of data and, generally, treated with hostility by leaders of the government. In the budgets Trump has proposed, he has asked for deep cuts in science, technology and health programs and research, especially at the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency; science fans in Congress, however, have prevailed.

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