Monday, December 5, 2016

Last Call For Is There A Doctor In The House?

Looks like Trump really is going to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as HUD secretary. Remember this is a man for whom even with all his talents, he freely admits that he's patently unqualified to run any federal department, including HUD. So naturally, he's running HUD.

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Ben Carson to be his secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who faced off against Trump in this year's Republican primaries, is the first African-American nominated for Trump's Cabinet. 
In a statement announcing the nomination, Trump referred to Carson's overcoming a troubled youth in Detroit to become head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. 
"I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development," Trump said. "Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities." 
"I am honored to accept the opportunity to serve our country in the Trump administration," Carson said. "I feel that I can make a significant contribution particularly by strengthening communities that are most in need. We have much work to do in enhancing every aspect of our nation and ensuring that our nation's housing needs are met."

Andrew Flowers at FiveThirtyEight gives a number of reasons why HUD needs to be a top priority in the Trump administration (or any administration for that matter) and why leaving it to someone like Carson is playing with fire.

Housing should be at the center of any attempt to fight poverty. Recent research by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, among others, has shown that inadequate housing is often a catalyst for a cycle of poverty; it triggers residential instability, which hurts the life outcomes of children and their parents. And for the poorest of the poor, the homeless, experts are increasingly promoting a “housing first” approach, in which authorities try to help people find housing as a first step toward addressing other poverty challenges. 
But housing policy in the U.S. is skewed toward rewarding wealthy homeowners (with tax deductions) rather than renters, who tend to be poorer. HUD oversees the Section 8 housing voucher program, which helps about 5 million people pay for private housing. Another roughly 2 million people are in public housing. 
But, crucially, the majority of poor Americans who qualify for housing assistance don’t get it — about 75 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Of those families below the federal poverty guideline, 67 percent don’t get any housing assistance. A new HUD secretary could help change that, or could promote other reforms that would let the government help more poor families afford housing.

The fact that HUD is responsible for nearly $1 trillion in home mortgage loans should give a hell of a lot of people mild angina now that Ben Carson's in charge of it.  And let's remember, this is a guy who thinks the Fair Housing Act, arguably HUD's most important component?  Carson thinks HUD has no business actually enforcing it.

Perhaps HUD’s most important role is that of ensuring equal access to housing, a role enshrined in the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The law made the agency responsible not just for fighting housing discrimination but for “affirmatively furthering” fair housing. The Obama administration last year announced plans to enforce that requirement by withholding federal funds in historically segregated areas. Contingent on receiving funds, state and local public housing authorities would be required to address how affordable housing development and zoning regulations further the goals of the FHA. 
Not much is known about Carson’s views on housing. But in 2015, he published an Op-Ed in The Washington Times lambasting the Obama administration’s enforcement measures. As Emily Badger of The Upshot wrote recently, Carson’s comments suggest that if he takes charge of HUD, he could water down — or end outright — the agency’s role in desegregation and in fighting housing discrimination.

 Let's take a look at America's new housing chief on HUD and the Fair Housing Act in his own words, shall we?

It is true that the Fair Housing Act and other laws have greatly reduced explicit discrimination in housing, but significant disparities in housing availability and quality persist. To address them, The Obama administration’s new agency rules rely on a tortured reading of the Fair Housing laws to empower the Department of Housing and Urban Development to “affirmatively promote” fair housing, even in the absence of explicit discrimination. 
The new rule would not only condition the grant of HUD funds to municipalities on building affordable housing as is the case today, but would require that such affordable housing be built primarily in wealthier neighborhoods with few current minority residents and that the new housing be aggressively marketed to minorities. In practice, the rule would fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas by encouraging municipalities to strike down housing ordinances that have no overtly (or even intended) discriminatory purpose — including race-neutral zoning restrictions on lot sizes and limits on multi-unit dwellings, all in the name of promoting diversity. 
These rules come on the heels of a Supreme Court decision narrowly upholding the use of “disparate impact” analysis in determining whether municipal housing policies have a racially discriminatory effect, whether intended or not. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project, et al., turned on whether the Texas housing agency decision to authorize more subsidized housing developments in poor rather than wealthy areas was racially discriminatory since it resulted in less affordable housing being made available in wealthier, non-black areas. The court ruled that it was proper for the lower courts and HUD to make a determination based on “disparate impact” rather than any specific intent to discriminate. 
Fair housing advocates saw this as a victory, but as with other mandated social-engineering schemes, the sort of unintended consequences Justice Samuel Alito alluded to in his dissent lurk in the shadows. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio recently announced a plan to build almost 80,000 new affordable housing units in the city’s minority neighborhoods, but the new rules could conceivably prevent their construction because of the “disparate impact” doing so might have on minority access to affordable housing in non-minority areas of the city.

These government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality create consequences that often make matters worse. There are reasonable ways to use housing policy to enhance the opportunities available to lower-income citizens, but based on the history of failed socialist experiments in this country, entrusting the government to get it right can prove downright dangerous.

A HUD chief that thinks HUD shouldn't actually do anything outside of "explicit discrimination", and that it shouldn't "promote diversity" in housing.  Carson may be one of Trump's most dangerous and most detrimental cabinet choices in the long run, folks.

Be afraid.

How To Steal An Election, Con't

The sad, strange tale of Pat McCrory comes to an end as the NC GOP governor, now more than 10,000 votes away from beating Democratic AG Roy Cooper for the gubernatorial race, has been forced to concede by mean old reality.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday that he’s conceded the election to Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general, and will support transition efforts. 
McCrory made the concession in a video message posted around noon Monday as a recount he requested in Durham County entered its final hours. Durham officials plan to finish the recount later Monday, but early results from the recount showed virtually no change in the vote tally there. 
“ I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken, and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper,” McCrory says in the video. “The McCrory administration team will assist in every way to help the new administration make a smooth transition. 
“It’s time to celebrate our democratic process and respect what I see to be the ultimate outcome of the closest North Carolina governor’s race in modern history.” 
McCrory’s concession comes nearly a month after Election Day, following dozens of election complaints filed by Republicans with help from the governor’s campaign. The majority of them were dismissed by GOP-controlled county election boards. 
Cooper had a lead of 10,263 votes over McCrory in nearly final election tallies on the State Board of Elections website Monday afternoon. 
With the concession, McCrory becomes the state’s first governor to lose a re-election bid. His defeat followed the nation’s second costliest gubernatorial race and North Carolina’s most expensive ever.

I honestly thought McCrory was going to try to force this into overtime and have the state's GOP-controlled General Assembly install him as Governor, but apparently that's even too much evil for the NC GOP to handle.  There really wasn't any legitimate way for McCrory to have won, either.

For now at least Democrats in the Tarheel State get a victory.

Read more here:

The Water Protectors Win This Round

Some good news this morning: President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the permit for constructing the proposed Dakota Pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands, and at least for now, construction will be halted.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have protested against the project for several months.

A celebration erupted at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have been protesting the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) Dakota Access Pipeline for months.

It may prove to be a short-lived victory, however, because Republican President-elect Donald Trump has stated that he supports the project. Trump takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 and policy experts believe he could reverse the decision if he wanted to.

The line, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, had been complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

That stretch required an easement from federal authorities. The Obama administration delayed a decision on the permit twice in an effort to consult further with the tribe.

"The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record," a statement from the U.S. Army said.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, said in a statement the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline, although it remains unclear what those alternatives will be.

Protesters have said the $3.8 billion project could contaminate the water supply and damage sacred tribal lands.

The tell that the Trump administration will almost certainly reverse this decision comes courtesy of North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, up for Interior Secretary.

“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe,” said Heitkamp. “This administration’s delay in taking action -- after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision -- means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located -- I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.

“Additionally, our federal delegation and governor have been working together in a bipartisan effort to push for more federal resources for law enforcement who have worked day and night through weekends and holidays to support the safety of our communities. The administration needs to provide those funds – whether the protesters remain or not.

So yes, I fully expect Heitkamp not only to be named Interior Secretary, but as her first act, to roll that pipeline right on through the Standing Rock Sioux. The fight in Standing Rock is not over, and it was never up to President Obama.  Voters saw to that last month.

We'll see where it goes from here, but I'm betting that a clash in North Dakota is only a few months away, and it will be a bloody, shocking affair when it happens.


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