EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Least Transparent Cabinet Member, Demands Science Transparency

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Least Transparent Cabinet Member, Demands Science Transparency

Maximal Hypocrisy Achieved!  Much better than a simple Trump Mission Accomplished!

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the EPA, has required that only completely transparent studies with fully published data, can be used to set EPA policies.  This means that all studies of the serious and costly health effects of pollution on actual people cannot be used, since patient records remain confidential.  He failed to get Congress to pass such an act, called the Honest Act, so he is just imposing the order anyway.  Science Magazine of April 13 had an editorial justifying studies without such impossible transparency.  It is clearly just meant to remove regulation on pollution that is severely damaging to human health.

But Scott Pruitt has probably set records for lack of his own transparency among government employees and records.  Pruitt has installed a $45,000 “cone of silence” to make or take phone calls from industrial polluters that he ethically shouldn’t be making or taking in the first place.  What’s more, he did not get permission for this, so that $40,000 of that was spent illegally.  He already had such a quiet room anyway.

Pruitt does not keep a public record of who he talks to, or whom he meets with.  He flies first class because he is afraid to talk to the public.  He has fired most scientific advisors and installed industry sources of who-knows-what qualifications instead.  He has ruled out any scientific experts who get funding from the EPA, although no conflict of interest has been shown.

There are several other irregularities and conflicts of interest in his behavior, including the extremely low-cost rental of a Washington apartment from a lobbyist.

He has a full-time security detail, despite not possessing any top-secret data.

So, the only man in the Trump cabinet demanding complete transparency, is the least transparent cabinet member. 

On April 18, 131 Representatives and 39 Senators signed a resolution calling for his resignation.  That the public health is being denigrated by an Administrator with so much Congressional opposition is an incredible indictment of the corruption of the Trump Administration. 

Posted in Donald Trump, EPA, Regulations, Secrecy, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

Did Trump Just Save James Comey from Being Tried?

Did Trump Just Save James Comey from Being Tried?

Many Democrats still believe that former FBI Director James Comey cost Hillary Clinton the election. Three large key rust belt states went to Trump by less than 1% and gave him the winning electoral vote margin: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Comey, a Republican, addressed the public on the Clinton email investigation, bypassing the primacy of the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, and the Justice Department. While clearing Clinton, he raked her over the coals for having a private email server when Secretary of State. All members of Congress are allowed one, Hillary did not plan to receive any classified email on it, and it was never hacked. Comey’s insinuation about Clinton violated the 5th Amendment Due Process guarantee, both from bypassing the Department of Justice, and directly by punishing Clinton’s reputation.

Trump has repeatedly violated Clinton’s Due Process rights, by leading the “Lock Her Up” chants. Trump continues to leak secrets by his timely announcements of military actions in planning or in progress.

In Comey’s ABC interview, he implied the runway meeting between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General somehow compromised the investigation. Both of them are experienced government lawyers, and highly unlikely to have violated due process. Comey’s excuse that he had to bypass the Attorney General with his announcement because of the meeting again violated due process, since he has no evidence that they discussed the investigation.

But when Trump violated Due Process by tweeting to his 50 million followers and massive news reporting, he ruined Comey’s chances of getting a fair trial, should he be investigated and indicted. Therefore, Comey gets off Scott free, due to Trump’s Tweet Tantrum. Another Mission Accomplished for Trump.

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Red State Tax Cuts: The Growth Killers

Red State Tax Cuts: The Growth Killers

Tax Cuts claimed to encourage growth.
Freeze or lower teacher salaries.
Lower support and supplies of schools.
Court businesses who want good schools for children of their highly educated staff
Businesses also need well educated recruits.
Businesses reject state.
Teachers leave.
Students permanently slowed and damaged.
Lie about success.
Claim you need more time.
Same Republicans re-elected.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Super rich save a few percent.
State suffers a 100%.

Posted in 2018 Midterm Election, Children, Department of Education, Economies, Education, Federal University Funding, Infrastructure, Science and Engineering Education, Secretary of Education, University Funding | Leave a comment

Climate-Wise Actions for Laguna Beach

Concerned about climate change? Here are some steps Laguna Beach residents (and everyone else) can take to combat climate change and help the environment.

  1.  Walk more, drive less. Use the trolley…it’s free.
  2.  Turn lights off at home.
  3.  Use LED light bulbs — they use up to 80% less energy than other bulbs.
  4.  Combine driving errands into one trip.
  5.  Use your garbage disposal for food waste. That waste is converted into energy at the treatment plant.
  6.  Eat less meat.
  7.  For only $5 more a month, you can opt for your electricity to come from renewable power sources only. Sign up with your utility company.
  8.  Don’t leave your car or truck idling.
  9.  Run full loads in your washer, clothes dryer, and dishwasher.
  10.  Limit use of your home’s heater and air conditioner, and close drapes and blinds when it is hot outside.
  11.  Buy less stuff. It creates a lot of greenhouse gas to make and deliver all of those items.
  12.  Keep your car longer, and consider an electric or hybrid vehicle when you replace your old one.
  13.  Take the train the next time you go to San Diego or LA; even Santa Barbara is only a four hour train ride from the Irvine station (and parking is free).
  14.  Encourage candidates and elected officials to prioritize climate action.
  15.  Support climate change initiatives and education by financially supporting and volunteering with groups committed to those goals.

All of the above are simple to do, and also save you money.  Many are also healthy.

On item 6, it is also presented as eat less beef, since cattle emit methane and contribute more greenhouse gases than other forms of meat or fish.

The above list is called “Climate-Wise Actions”, and is being distributed by the Climate-Wise Laguna group of Laguna Beach. This is headed by Tom Osborne, a climate historian, and author of the climate column Green Light in the Laguna Beach Indy. It is an amazing group of climate activists and climate related professors. The list was contributed to by the group, and compiled and printed by Debra Steel. Others in the group, called Climate-Wise Laguna, are Ginger Osborne, Jane Hall, Kate Clark, Irene Bowie, Bill Steel, Scott Ferguson, Ramin Pejan, Patrick Rafter, C. F. Goodwin, Breene, Bernd Scheuchl, Allan Schoenherr, Adam Coghill, and Dennis Silverman.

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate Change, Climate Education, Conservation, Electric Power, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Laguna Beach Energy Savings, Mayor's Climate Action Plan, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Transportation, Waste Energy | Leave a comment

The Laguna Beach March For Our Lives in Photos

The Laguna Beach March For Our Lives in Photos

Along with the main March For Our Lives in Washington D. C., Laguna Beach residents had a large turn out of students, parents, and grandparents at the protest at Main Beach on March 24, 2018. This protest, there was no music or speeches, but everyone expressed their opinions with their creative, hand made signs. The demonstrators lined the coast highway holding their signs, and drivers honked and showed their sympathy with the protestors.  By not having music or speeches, the kids, their families, and their signs became the main focus of the rally.

I had self assigned myself to take pictures of the signs and demonstrators. What I did not realize is how many people turned out. I also did not anticipate how clever and touching the signs will be. The fact that many were carried by kids of 12-K brought home the message of how important this was to them. Students all over the country practice for armed intrusion drills, and schools have been evacuated for bomb threats.

When I was a student, we used to duck under our desks for atom bomb drills. I still remember those. Now, however, there are a set of continuing armed shooter incidents. Something like 25% of students actually fear that such incidents could befall their own classrooms. While each such incident is a tragedy, they are dispersed enough that most students will not be directly affected, other than through the news and drills.

I tried to photograph most of the signs, and ended up with 200 pictures of interesting signs and participants, and also beach activities and dogs. The photos are on my Dennis Silverman Flickr account, in the album Laguna Beach March For Our Lives.

Picturing the signs and participants, I feel like I have done mini-interviews with most of the demonstrators, about their most relevant opinions and cares.

Posted in Laguna Beach Rally, March For Our Lives, Politics, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

The Republican Diet

The Republican Diet

We were discussing the South Beach diet, when I recalled that Ronald Reagan once called Ketchup a vegetable. Unfortunately, this was to justify cuts in the school lunch program. Then we recalled that George H. W. Bush did not like broccoli, though it is judged to be the most nutritious vegetable. He had a junk food diet. South Beach is a long hour and a quarter North of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, and so is the South Beach Diet distant from Trump’s diet.

We know much about Trump’s diet. He likes two cheeseburgers, and the best chocolate cake in the world. He also likes two scoops of ice cream, with everyone else only getting one. He also likes KFC, Mexican food, and Pizza. This must make him relatable to his core. He doesn’t drink though. When dining with the elite, like Mitt Romney, he forces them to eat frogs legs, as he typecasts them as effete elites and Francophiles.

The importance of the Republican diet is that Republicans do not want to let people on food stamps choose their own diet, even though there are already restrictions on alcohol and tobacco. The Republicans want to distribute food in pre-set box meals. So the Republican diet is very necessary to ascertain. Either Donald will pick his carb loaded diet, or Democrats can make fun of the comparison with a well chosen nutritious diet. Republican farmers and food industry Reps will be competing with each other to make sure that their products are given prime consideration. Republicans may favor red state products, and Republican supporting food producers.

We know that Trump prefers to dine where supporters have paid $35,000 a plate. Instead of dining at his landmark tower restaurants in public, he prefers private dining and eating rapidly with fast food. Dining in public at Mar-a-Lago, he entertains guests with 69 cruise missile fireworks, but fortunately, in Syria, and at military targets. He also likes to discuss secret military strategies in public to enliven dessert at Mar-a-Lago. Perhaps the food stamp box lunches will come not only with praise for Trump, but also fortune cookies with random state secrets included inside. As if we have any secrets, which haven’t already been tweeted out.

Republicans will also follow Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, whose philosophy on public housing is never to make them comfortable enough, so that occupants will be motivated to move out and on, and will get jobs to do so. Carson’s meal boxes will never be filling, and will lack some essential vitamins, which people will need to secure by getting jobs to buy their own food. This from the guy who needed an elegant $31,000 dining room set in his office, to eat his own food.

Governor Kasich of Ohio, was a spectacular candidate for woofing down massive servings of whatever distinctive local or ethnic food that he was presented. I don’t know if this won him many votes, but it did lead to a lot of ridicule. I hope he has lost whatever excess weight his ambitions put on him. Then there was ridiculing from daily show host Jon Stewart over whether candidates ate pizza by the slice, or used knives and forks.

It’s amazing how much that food is associated with Republican images, when you gather the facts. Clearly Trump needs to play more golf, but without his golf carts. That will benefit everybody, as it will replace some executive Twitter time. In contrast, Barack and Michele Obama managed to stay healthy on healthy diets during their eight years.
Republicans are gouging themselves and the country with massive increased debt through tax cuts and increased spending, in order to get reelected. This is similar to the diets that they are consuming.

Posted in Donald Trump, Food Stamps, Trump Administration | Leave a comment

Trump’s Testosterone Trip

Trump’s Testosterone Trip

Why should Trump, Fox News, and Trump’s new lawyer get all the fun in proposing conspiracy theories. Invoking the Quid Pro Quo amendment, we all can propose conspiracy theories. Mine is that in the past few days, Trump has gone on a Testosterone trip.

Trump’s hair growth medicine works by lowering testosterone. It seems that he has lost the bottle, or thinks that he can get along without it. This surge in testosterone released vibes that could be detected by other alpha males competing for leader of the pack. That is why Joe Biden challenged him a fight, over Trump’s behavior to gain the attention of females. This is why Trump responded back with a similar alpha male grunt and snort, although it came across as only a tweet.

Trump also replaced a triumvirate of reasonable White House advisors, with maximally aggressive ones. His top Russia lawyer, John Dowd, who wanted to win by cooperation, was replaced by Fox News conspiracy lawyer Joe diGenova. DiGenova pushes the theory that the Mueller investigation is a Democratic Conspiracy or witch hunt. While Dowd, like any good lawyer, would not put his client on the stand, Trump is snorting that he will meet Mueller horns to horns on the stand. This would certainly convince Trump’s followers that he is innocent, regardless of the evidence Trump is questioned with.

Throughout Republican administrations, I have lived in fear of super-hawk John Bolton. Now, Trump has elevated John, a Fox News commentator, to the most dangerous White House post of National Security Advisor. Bolton wants to bomb Iran instead of relying on the nuclear non-proliferation contract. He also wants regime change to solve the North Korea nuclear problem, with its takeover by South Korea. The reasonable and independent General McMaster was replaced by this alpha hawk.

We can add in the sudden attack on and mention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The conspiratorial theory is going to be the justification for the dismissal of Mueller if this testosterone surge continues.

It could be that all of the weeks of the press and legal discussions about Trump’s affairs, which I won’t discuss on my blog, have stimulated his memories and provided more testosterone.  While Trump could have remained innocent of knowing of the non-disclosure agreement, his new testosterone approach is to sue for $20 million for violation of the agreement, which only has status if he was involved in the agreement.

So there is nothing complicated about this theory, or even a conspiracy. It is just the standard testosterone and competitive challenges among all alpha males, which is a basis of evolution.  It is something that Trump has been engaged in throughout his life.

It’s easy to put Trump back on a reasonable, cooperative track. Just comment that his hair looks like it is thinning. He will rush back to taking his pills, while telling you to clean out your office.

Posted in Donald Trump, Humor, Iran, Korean Militaries, North Korea Nuclear Threat, Nuclear Weapons, Trump Administration, White House | Leave a comment

Most of Steel Tariffs Dropped

Since we wrote several articles on the steel tariffs, we have to update when they are essentially canceled with our favorite trade partners. We had argued that they did not really punish China, which we now understand was the main purpose, to match Trump’s campaign rhetoric. Trump was embarrassed for a couple of days, while continuing his claim that we have a trade deficit with Canada, when we have a surplus.

Instead, Trump now is instituting $60 billion worth of tariffs, directly on China. This has sent the DOW down 2.93%, and S&P 500 down 2.52% today.

On Steel, the exempted countries, and their 2017 import contributions in value and percent, are: the EU ($9.18 billion, 31.5%), South Korea ($2.79 billion, 9.6%), Brazil ($2.44 billion, 8.4%), Canada ($5.12 billion, 17.6%), and Mexico ($2.50 billion, 8.6%). These add up to 75.7%, and $22.0 billion. China’s share is only ($0.98 billion, 3.4%).

The principal country importers in the 24.3% left out of the forgiven list are: Russia ($1.43 billion, 4.9%), Turkey ($1.18 billion, 4.1%), Japan ($1.66 billion, 5.7%), and Taiwan ($1.26 billion, 4.3%). The sum of these is 19.0% and $5.53 billion. Why our allies Taiwan and Japan? Why Russia, which Trump refuses to punish in any other way?

Trump claimed that the steel and aluminum tariffs were for National Security. Remember, you can’ t have a nation if you don’t make your own steel? Yet the full tariff would only have raised our own steel production from 73% to 80%. Also, our steel suppliers are our friends and allies, not our enemies (except for Russia’s 5%). But trade with Russia is more of an influence than a tariff is.

Paul Krugman, economist for the NY Times, on his Twitter account point out that China’s trade surplus as a percentage of its GDP is now only about 2%. This is down from its peak of 9% in 2007. Krugman also argues that is is partly Korean and Japanese goods being finally assembled in China. So China’s contribution is only half as much as shown.

The largest Chinese imports in value are Computers and Electronics of around $170 billion, of which China has 46% of US imports. Next is electrical equipment at about $40 billion, of which China has 38%. Of course, the $60 billion of tariffs against China will either be replaced by other countries, or else consumers will have to pick up the price rises.

Our exports to China are led by Transportation Equipment of which China buys 23% of our exports. Agriculture is next, of which China has 12% of our exports. Next comes oil and gas, of China has 5%.

This shows that Peter Navarro, formerly of UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business, is now getting his way in a trade war with China.

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Facebook’s Influence

Facebook’s Influence

Update, March 25:  These revelations are too big for an incremental update.  The Washington Post just revealed that in the 2014 election, at least 20 foreigners from Cambridge Analytica were participating in state elections at decision making jobs, despite being legally warned that this was not allowed.  Furthermore, they entered on non-work visas.  Rebecca Mercer, a key Trump funder, was President of Cambridge Analytica at the time, and Steve Bannon was Vice President, and boy, was this vice.  CEO was the now infamous Alexander Nix, a Briton.   The foreigners were from Britain, Canada, and other European countries.  Cambridge Analytica also worked for a super PAC run by John Bolton, our newly appointed National Security Advisor.  Bye Bye John!  Is this why Trump kept saying that interference in our elections might not be Putin but other Europeans?  Fortunately for Republicans, they control Congress, and will not seriously investigate the misdoings of the Republicans involved.  The Trump campaign paid at least $6 million to Cambridge Analytica, where Nix claimed credit for the Trump win.  Drop mike.

Updates:  for a while, I am just going to update and advance the information about Facebook, by just using this one article.

Marc Zuckerberg’s point in establishing Facebook was to form a social network, where everybody’s personality would be open to the world. In practice, he gave a worldwide website to everybody. But it was done in a way to start with totally open access to personal data, which one had to work on to privatize data that you wanted private. Then came the investors, the board, the business leadership, all of whom were trained and dedicated to concept of MONETIZE, MONETIZE, MONETIZE. Their stock drop today, March 22, is 2.66% along with the rest of the market, after Trump announced $60 billion of tariffs explicitly against China.  FB, Facebook, now has a stock evaluation of $479 billion.  In four days the stock has dropped from 185 to 165, or 10.8%.

Friends, likes, preferences, shares, approvals are all shared with friends or public to influence all of your friends to buy products or services with your invaluable personal approval and advertising. Facebook, like ALL web services, use all of your Big Data to target ads to you, which they earn money for. All Cambridge Analytica did was to automate this data gathering for themselves, as any user could do one friend by one friend.  Update, March 22, Mark Zuckerberg seem to describe in an interview that Facebook just gave the data to Alexander Kogan, who shared it with Cambridge Analytica, to use for profit, somehow violating the rules.  Mark said that they stopped this in 2014, and had Analytica sign a document that they had erased the data.  I am nobody to lecture on this, but for a $500 billion company who relies on the exclusive ownership of its data to make a profit, not to check up on this sounds really irresponsible.  Now Facebook has to worry about all the people they gave data to, and whether that data has been copied and sold.  On March 22, claimed founder of Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon, said Facebook’s data was for sale around the world, implying that that is how they got it.

Zuckerberg was talking quite generally, without any detailed clarifications.  Clearly, if you are being sued, you don’t surrender any discoveries.  Facebook has to check thousands of apps to which, I guess, they gave or sold data to.  Kogan also has an appointment at St. Petersburg University.  March 23rd, we learn that Facebook sent two employees to work with Kogan.  Ted Cruz also used Cambridge Analytica in his failed campaign.

Many questions need to be asked.  Do the Russians have this data, and did they use it in their influence campaign?  Why was this company formed by Bannon in Cambridge England, rather than Cambridge Massassachusetts?  Was the data used to influence the BRexit vote?  Was it used in the British elections?

The possible illegality of this use, may just be that Cambridge Analytica was, by its name even, a foreign company interfering in a US election. This would apply to any Brits working on this. Also, the funder, Robert Mercer, did not list this as a campaign contribution.

This weakness in Facebook is obvious, and many would eventually gather this data. The threat to Facebook is not what it was legally used for, but that they weren’t paying Facebook for their use of the data, which is a challenge to their bottom line, as well as future stock projections.

Of the 57 million users data gathered, 30 million were Americans.  We don’t know the adult voting amount.  In the 2016 election, 139 million Americans voted, or 60.2% of the voting-eligible population of 231 million.  In 2014, their were 245 million US adults.  Trump in 2016 won the electoral college with 63 million votes, while Clinton got 66 million.  The three key and unexpected rust belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were won by Trump with less than a 1% lead.  Trump took the third largest state, Florida, by only 1.3%.

In July last year, Forbes said Zuckerberg was the world’s 5th richest person, worth $73 billion dollars. We always like to provide a scale. For Facebook’s 2.2 billion worldwide users, this is $33 per user, not a big drain on our budget.

In the four recent quarters Q3-16 to Q2-17, Facebook earned $33.1 billion. That is $15 per worldwide user. Considering that you get a worldwide website with all possible bells and whistles, that is really a bargain at only $1.25 a month, or 4 cents a day. By comparison, I pay about $50 per month for cable internet access.

Considering the basic Republican running positions on: jobs, tax cuts, and fear of foreigners by race and religion, the deep research seems like a waste of money. Considering that Trump got 90% of the Republican vote, it also didn’t matter. Considering you had a candidate that spent his life selling to people, who was also a TV star, detailed research wasn’t really needed. Considering that you had a self-admitted female assaulters on this third marriage, still supported by evangelicals, nothing mattered.

If Facebook really wanted to atone for any sins, it should allow a non-partisan set of scholars to use its data to find out how such a destructive president could be elected.

Posted in Cambridge Analytica, Facebook | Leave a comment

Dear Republicans: This is a Great Time to Consider Retirement

Dear Republicans: This is a Great Time to Consider Retirement

The new CNN cited polls show that your demographic groups are down 13% to 20% from the last election. Your President is the least popular in history. He has decided to let Trump be the Lord of All Things. His actions will be only more “you can’t even make this stuff up” until the November election. Whoever he comes out to back, drops 20 points in support. His appointees to the Cabinet and federal judgeships are embarrassing, as are their hearings.

You have also accomplished all that you can have promised your backers. They don’t need to contribute that much in the future. You have your conservative Supreme Court replacement for Alito. You have your unfunded $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich. You have all departments run by Secretaries who have cancelled all regulations desired by your lobbyists. The Secretaries are also run by the industries that they are managing. For coastal Republicans, you already have your oil companies given off-shore drilling rights. For inland Republicans, your oil companies can now drill on federal lands. There is nothing left to motivate your voters during a midterm election.

The Mueller investigation is daily turning up more areas of skullduggery. Facebook and Cambridge Analytics is a disgusting, deep and expansive sinkhole. More arrests, court cases, and state-friendly witnesses will be turned. The sex scandals are ballooning, now due to Trump’s personal counter-suing. As Mueller closes in, people closer to Trump will be tarnished, and Trump will become more desperate in fighting back in unprecedented ways. This will wear on Trump’s, Republican’s, and your backing.

Even being in a highly gerrymandered Republican district, you can no longer count on sliding into home base, for the reasons given above. You are going to have to work meetings every day with groups, in which there will be vociferous Trump denouncers. Your office will be surrounded by embarrassing demonstrators. You will be shunned socially, since hosts don’t want their parties disrupted by loud political denunciations. You are going to have to work twice as hard to get the same amount of financial support as in the past. Your opponents will be much better funded than you have ever seen in the past. Your opponent, who will have won the Democratic primary, will be a first-class opponent and debater, rather than just a party place holder.

Due to Arctic warming destabilizing the polar vortex, Washington D. C will have more and more serious winter storms for you to contend with and make your life miserable. Your home and neighboring districts will be more vulnerable to climate change destruction like floods, drought, and wildfires. Your disbelief in climate change and science will be ever harder to defend.

Younger voters are highly involved in social media, where you will have to be involved. Your output on these media will be trolled by all sorts of clever criticism.

You may squeak by in 2018, despite an expected low Republican turnout, and a high disaffected independents turnout. But in 2020, you are going to have to run with Trump, and face even greater opposition. There will be a 2020 census, which will lead to ever increasingly fair redistricting in 2021, which will make your 2022 re-election much more difficult.

Many have been booted or have quit the Trump reign, and have gone on to much more lucrative and enjoyable jobs than their obsequious service to Trump. Or they have enjoyed retiring on their laurels. Everyone retires sometime. Make it easy on yourself.

Including House members running for other offices, there will so far be 17 open Democratic seats, and 37 Republican seats in the 2018 midterm.

Posted in 2018, 2018 Midterm Election, Climate Change, Climate Science, Coastal States, Congressional Investigation, Constitution, Dana Rohrabacher CA 48th, Donald Trump, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Governors and State Legislatures, Humor, Laguna Beach Rally, Mimi Walters CA 45th, Offshore Oil Drilling, Oil, Public Confidence, Regulations, Supreme Court, Swing States, Trump Administration, Trump Tax Cuts, Voting Rights | Leave a comment