The Wrong Time to Cut Back on Refugees – By Michael Mullen – NYT

“In slashing resettlement, the president is taking a recklessly narrow view of how best to put America first. Shutting out refugees would not only increase human suffering; it would also weaken the country and undermine its foreign policy.

There are more than 22 million refugees in the world, the highest number since World War II. Even before the Trump presidency, the United States response to this crisis was relatively modest. In fiscal year 2016, the United States resettled about 84,000 refugees, the most of any year under President Barack Obama. For comparison’s sake, the country took in roughly 200,000 refugees a year in the early 1980s under President Ronald Reagan.

Nonetheless, the resettlement effort under President Obama served American interests. For one thing, it helped the states that host the vast majority of Syrian refugees: Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. (In fiscal year 2016, 12,500 of the refugees resettled by the United States came from Jordan, a key American ally in a strategically crucial region.) The huge influx of refugees into these nations has strained their resources and infrastructure, becoming a potential source of instability and even conflict. By resettling refugees, the United States helps preserve stability and sends a message of support to countries whose cooperation it needs on a range of issues.”

“It’s no wonder that numerous studies have found that refugees are a net benefit to the American economy. The administration’s own study — which the president solicited from the Department of Health and Human Resources — concluded that refugees added $63 billion to the economy between 2005 and 2014.

Support for refugees creates another form of currency for the United States. Call it respect or admiration or credibility, this currency accrues when the United States leads by example and champions human rights on the world stage. It’s an invaluable and fungible resource, amassed over many decades. It enables the United States to forge ties with democratic movements. It also helps Washington persuade allies to do difficult things and pressure foes to stop their bad behavior. It is crucial to forging trade pacts, military coalitions and peace deals.More than any other resource — including military and economic might — this accounts for American greatness. We sacrifice it at our peril.”

Folks- We’re Home Alone – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

“Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a famous memoir, “Present at the Creation,” about the birth of the post-World War II order — an order whose institutions produced six decades of security and growth for a lot of people. We’re now at a similar moment of rapid change — abroad and at home. Many institutions have to be rethought. But any book about Washington today would have to be called “Absent at the Creation.”

Surely one of the most cynical, reckless acts of governing in my lifetime has been President Trump and the G.O.P.’s attempt to ram through a transformation of America’s health care system — without holding hearings with experts, conducting an independent cost-benefit analysis or preparing the public — all to erase Barack Obama’s legacy to satisfy a few billionaire ideologue donors and a “base” so drunk on Fox News that its members don’t understand they’ll be the ones most hurt by it all.”

Great column Thomas Friedman, thank you.

I had to read through many weird comments before I got to one I could endorse, which is:

Phil Korb

Philadelphia, PA 1 day ago

What an excellent, insightful, important and hugely depressing column. Trump’s very slogan, Make America Great Again, meaning Let’s pretend it can be 1950 again, is precisely the opposite of what we need. I became a grandfather two months ago, and I want, and have a duty to try to make, her world a better place, or at least not a worse place, than it is for me. The current president and the GOP leadership seem committed to ruining her future.

A Boondoggle Masquerading as Tax Reform – The New York Times


“After months of secret negotiations, the Trump administration and congressional leaders have come up with a tax plan — sort of. What they have really come up with is a wish list of tax cuts for the wealthy, with lots of “we’ll get back to you on that” promises where the details are supposed to be.

This much is clear: The tax “framework” published by Republican leaders on Wednesday would greatly increase the federal deficit, would not turbocharge economic growth and could leave many middle-class families worse off by ending deductions they rely on. It would do little or nothing to improve the lot of the working class, a group President Trump says he is fighting for. It would instead provide a windfall to hedge fund managers, corporate executives, real estate developers and other members of the 1 percent. And can it be just a happy coincidence that Mr. Trump and his family would benefit “bigly” from this plan?

On income taxes, the framework calls for reducing the top tax bracket to 35 percent, from 39.6 percent, which would benefit people earning $418,400 a year or more. It would also raise the rate for people in the lowest bracket to 12 percent, from 10 percent. Republicans say they will offset that particular burden by roughly doubling the standard deduction to $24,000 for a couple ($12,000 for a single person). In addition, the proposal would eliminate most itemized deductions except mortgage interest and charitable donations. This could greatly hurt middle-class families in New York, California and other states with high local and state taxes that the families will no longer be allowed to deduct from federal taxes.”

Twitter- With Accounts Linked to Russia- to Face Congress Over Role in Election – The New York Times

“But there is evidence that Twitter may have been used even more extensively than Facebook in the Russian influence campaign last year. In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using “bot” accounts to spread false stories and promote news articles about emails from Democratic operatives that had been obtained by Russian hackers.

Twitter has struggled for years to rein in the fake accounts overrunning its platform. Unlike Facebook, the service does not require its users to provide their real name (or at least a facsimile of one) and allows automated accounts — arguing that they are a useful tool for tasks such as customer service. Beyond those restrictions, there is also an online black market for services that can allow for the creation of large numbers of Twitter bots, which can be controlled by a single per . . .”


David Lindsay                                                                                  A NYT Pick!

Hamden, CT 23 hours ago

It is time to regulate severely Twitter and Facebook, and any social media that is willing to allow foreigners to pose as Americans to poison or influence elections. Twitter allows bot accounts, and it allows people to join while concealing their real identity. Russians should be banned from these outfits until after the next presidential election, while we sort out how to monitor their social media espionage.
These revelations are execrable. It should be as hard to get a twitter account as it is to get a drivers license. And laws should be passed so that these social media companies can be sued for damages for fake news and fake users. They should be made liable for the harm they are allowing to our democracy.
David Lindsay,



“EPA’s Role in ENERGY STARThe ENERGY STAR program was established by EPA in 1992, under the authority of the Clean Air Act Section 103(g). Learn more about EPA’s statutory authority for ENERGY STAR.EPA ensures unbiased credibilityEPA ensures that ENERGY STAR provides the trusted information critical to an efficient private market—information that American businesses and consumers rely on every day. Industry shares the data that EPA uses to set performance-based definitions of leadership in energy efficiency—a collaboration that would not be possible without the confidence ENERGY STAR business partners place in EPA. Guided by a set of well-tested principles, EPA acts as an impartial arbiter of energy performance to set objective criteria that are central to all aspects of the program.Every ENERGY STAR label is independently certified, whether on a product, a home, a building, or a manufacturing plant. For example, in 2016, EPA oversaw robust third-party certification of ENERGY STAR products, administered by 24 independent certification bodies and more than 600 labs. EPA also requires that a sample of products be tested directly off retailers’ shelves. Last year, more than 1,800 products were tested; 95 percent passed, affirming consumer confidence in the label. Learn more about how EPA ensures ENERGY STAR’s program integrity.EPA provides a single national platform for utilities and local governments,

Nationwide, utilities invested $7.7 billion in energy efficiency programs in 2015.1 With hundreds of disparate utilities scattered around the country, EPA plays a critical unifying role to guide their energy efficiency programs. EPA enables utilities to leverage ENERGY STAR as a common national platform, avoiding the creation of hundreds of independent utility programs across the nation, which could fragment the market and stall innovation. Nearly 700 utilities—serving roughly 85% of American households—partner with ENERGY STAR, providing consistency and uniformity to the private market.Additionally, as of last year, 23 local governments and two states rely on EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® tool as the foundation for their energy benchmarking and transparency policies, creating uniformity for businesses and reducing transaction and implementation costs.”


How it Works — Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs) | Products | ENERGY STAR .gov

“How it Works — Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs)It’s generally easier to move something than to make something. Putting that principle to use, HPWHs use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly.

To understand the concept of heat pumps, imagine a refrigerator working in reverse. While a refrigerator removes heat from an enclosed box and expels that heat to the surrounding air, a HPWH takes the heat from surrounding air and transfers it to water in an enclosed tank.

During periods of high hot water demand, HPWHs switch to standard electric resistance heat (hence they are often referred to as “hybrid” hot water heaters) automatically. HPWH come with control panels that you to select from different operating modes 1, which include: Efficiency/Economy – Maximizes energy efficiency and savings by only using the heat pump to heat water Auto/Hybrid – The default setting is ideal for daily use, providing energy-efficient water heating with sustained heat Electric/Heater – This high-demand setting is the least energy-efficient, using only the electric element to heat water Vacation & Timer (not available on all models) – Save on your energy when away from home by placing the unit in “sleep” mode until you return. . . . ”

Source: How it Works — Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWHs) | Products | ENERGY STAR

Tyranny of the Minority – by Michelle Goldberg – debut at NYT

“A combination of gerrymandering and the tight clustering of Democrats in urban areas means that even if Democrats get significantly more overall votes than Republicans in the midterms — which polls show is probable — they may not take back the House of Representatives. (According to a Brookings Institution analysis, in 2016, Republicans won 55.2 percent of seats with just under 50 percent of votes cast for Congress.)

And because of the quirks of the 2018 Senate map, Democrats are extremely unlikely to reclaim that chamber, even if most voters would prefer Democratic control. Some analysts have even suggested that Republicans could emerge from 2018 with a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

Our Constitution has always had a small-state bias, but the effects have become more pronounced as the population discrepancy between the smallest states and the largest states has grown. “Given contemporary demography, a little bit less than 50 percent of the country lives in 40 of the 50 states,” Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law scholar at the University of Texas, told me. “Roughly half the country gets 80 percent of the votes in the Senate, and the other half of the country gets 20 percent.” ”

Lovely first op-ed. Here are some comments I approved.


is a trusted commenter Westchester County, NY 18 hours ago

Trump’s election has revealed the extent to which the GOP has taken over the country even as a majority of voters disagree with their politics. It also revealed how incompetent and unresponsive the GOP is when it comes to the lives of ordinary Americans. The only people that the GOP is interested in are their donors whether they are rich or big corporations. The rest of us are nowhere to be found in their consciousness. As long as we have the Electoral College it’s not one person one vote. The same goes for the amount of gerrymandering.

There is another not so savory thing that Trump’s election has revealed about America: we do not believe in equality, compassion, or charity. We are racist, anti-intellectual, and selfish to the point of destruction. If we continue to elect representatives who refuse to allocate money to run the country, improve our infrastructure, or do what’s necessary we will become a backwater which is not what our Founding Fathers wanted or expected.

Joe P.

Maryland 18 hours ago

This was one of the best articles I’ve read on our current state of affairs. A point by point analysis, and some offered solutions. let’s get to work.


Do Republicans Really Care About the Deficit? – by Jared Bernstein – NYT

“Though America really doesn’t need a tax cut — demographic pressures alone suggest the need for more, not less, future revenues — President Trump and the Republican majority want one. But they don’t want to pay for it, which means the budget deficit is going to rise. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the increase in the deficit could be at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

Perhaps this surprises you, as you’ve long heard Republicans cry about deficits and debt. But any such tears are of the crocodile variety. When it comes to increasing the budget deficit, the impact of this tax plan is no different from any of their others.Back in 2015, I testified at a hearing on these issues before the House Budget Committee. One after another, Republican members on the committee denounced rising debt levels. Why then, I asked, do you want to cut taxes? Their answer: It’s spending, not tax cuts, that increases the deficit.

That, of course, is crazy. I don’t mean it’s bad economics, or lousy fiscal policy. I mean it’s disconnected from reality, or more precisely, from arithmetic. You can, and they do, make arguments about how growth effects will make up the difference, despite the complete lack of empirical evidence to support such claims. Indeed, rumor is that Mr. Trump has his economics team ginning up a “dynamic growth model” that will spit out phony growth effects offsetting much of the cost of their tax cut.”

A Trump Travel Ban We’ve Seen Before – The New York Times

“The central question to ask about President Trump’s latest travel ban, which he issued on Sunday, is: Will it make Americans safer?The answer, as best as anyone can tell based on publicly available information, is no.Starting Oct. 18, the United States will permanently bar entry to most citizens of seven countries — Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea. Certain citizens from Iraq and Venezuela will face restrictions and heightened scrutiny.

Mr. Trump justified these restrictions — which target countries that either failed or refused to meet new vetting standards — by saying he was acting “to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people.” Americans should be skeptical. While it may appear more modulated, Sunday’s proclamation is a direct descendant of a central plank of Mr. Trump’s campaign — his call for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, which he made in 2015, and which remained on his campaign website as late as May.”


Yes, and here is a comment I really liked.


Guilderland, NY 4 hours ago

If the goal of not allowing people from certain countries from entering the US is to lower the risk to as close to zero as possible, I ask why we are spending so much time on changing existing policy when almost all of the terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11 have been committed by American citizens and not by recent immigrants or visitors to the US. If it’s risk you want to avoid, why are people allowed to obtain guns here when hundreds of times more people are killed by guns in the US by US citizens than all terrorist activity combined? Why is that far greater risk acceptable? Why no concern whatsoever when individuals shoot up a church or place of business or commit suicide or kill their spouse/ girlfriend, or people praying in a church? Why does that violence not trigger a desire to ban activity to lower the risk to as near zero as possible? Why not address the effort to maximum benefit? In the words of Dylan, ” How many deaths does it take til you know that too many people have died?”

Get Up- Stand Up! – by Gretchen Reynolds – NYT

“The scientists then found strong statistical correlations between sitting and mortality. The men and women who sat for the most hours every day, according to their accelerometer data, had the highest risk for early death, especially if this sitting often continued for longer than 30 minutes at a stretch. The risk was unaffected by age, race, gender or body mass.It also was barely lowered if people exercised regularly.

But interestingly, the risk of early death did drop if sitting time was frequently interrupted. People whose time spent sitting usually lasted for less than 30 minutes at a stretch were less likely to have died than those whose sitting was more prolonged, even if the total hours of sitting time were the same.

In essence, the data showed that “both the total hours spent sitting each day and whether those hours are accrued in short or long bouts” of physical stillness influenced longevity, says Keith Diaz, an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University, who led the new study.”

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT

What a great article, exceptionally good common sense, and interesting science. As my Dad liked to advise, Don’t let the bastards get you down. I’d write more, but I think I’ve been reading the NYT now for two and a half hours straight, and having just absorbed the main gist of your reporting, I’d better walk about and do some chores.