Trump’s War on Coal III

The US coal collapse is speeding up as predicted.


Previous posts in this series: Donald Trump’s War on Coal , Trump’s War on Coal II

In January I looked at the state of US coal and concluded:


It is highly probable that demand for coal will fall by the order of magnitude implied by the FERC data. My prediction is that the pace of closures, and the loss of mining jobs, will roughly triple.

I did not predict that it would happen so fast.

FERC regularly updates a table including planned retirements of coal generating plants up to three years ahead. The April table gave 13,992 MW. In May this rose to 17,054 MW: an increase of 3 GW in one month, just over 1% of the remaining capacity.

It’s technically possible, given the rolling horizon, that these 3 GW were already in the spreadsheet for May 2022 and the forecast has just caught up. This is very unlikely, and makes little difference even if it were true.

The obvious interpretation is that utility executives across the United States have concluded:

1. Their coal plants are increasingly uneconomic compared for gas, renewables, and storage, and carry growing reputational and policy risks at federal (>2020) and state level.

2. The Trump Administration’s policy to save coal is a sham. Even rhetorically, it is disappearing: Trump did not mention coal in his lastest set-pieces on energy (July 8 remarks, fact sheet).

3. They might as well bite the bullet now. Nothing will get better for coal.

The information the utilities supply on closures to FERC, the federal agency responsible for the reliability of the national electricity supply, must be hard. These aren’t predictions but decisions. There is more of the same they are still mulling over. And once they have decided to close a plant, there are pressures to bring the date forward. The collapse will go on speeding up.

With oversight from Washington in the hands of feckless, inept and amoral ex-lobbyists, the end of coal mining in America is coming at an appalling social cost. David Roberts at Vox documents one example, the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming. The short version:

1. The mines were run by Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha made a very bad bet on Appalachian coal and declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015.

2. Te restructuring involved abandoning critical health benefits to 4,580 non-union miners and spouses, slashing the cleanup liabilities, multi-million dollar bonuses to executives, and spinning off the mines.

3. The buyer of the two mines was Blackjewel, run by an Appalachian grifter called Jeff Hoops. Hoops had apparently no plan to nurse the mines back to viability. Instead he milked the cash flow for more insider bonuses while not paying taxes and other creditors. IANAL but it looks to me like a classic long-firm fraud.

4. Blackjewel suddenly collapsed two weeks ago in a cloud of bouncing cheques, some for wages. It is heading for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and a full liquidation. The state will be left with the uncovered cleanup liabilities, and support for the abandoned miners, assuming they are nor just left to cough their lungs out untreated in the rugged Western way.

5. Roberts does not go into this, but I assume that the political influence of Philip Anschutz, the wind baron of Wyoming, has been strengthened by the fiasco. Wyoming will be less helpful in future to his coal rivals. The state may even go after Mr. Hoops. Good hunting.

PS: let me advertise an old proposal I made here in 2010: nationalize coal. It really is the most humane way to manage the rundown of an entire sector in the public interest. US coal companies are to a first approximation worthless, once you include the cleanup, pension and health liabilities they are trying to evade. So the fair price to shareholders is $0 a share. Bondholders and unsecured creditors? How about their taking the same haircut they are getting anyway under Chapter 11 bankruptcy? The taxpayer will be on the hook for the shortfall in the funds for cleanup, pensions and health, but that’s inevitable in any scenario. What nationalization saves is the looting by the likes of Mr. Hoop, and it allows for proper planning of the reconversion measures.

Socialism? Sure. That’s what makes my proposal sadly unrealistic. Do you have a better one?

Cannabis News Round-Up

What has changed in states that have legalized marijuana—and what hasn’t.

Oregon has a marijuana surplus and officials aren’t happy. What can California expect after five years of legal marijuana? Five years after legalization, Colorado struggles to test marijuana impairment for drivers.

Fifteen Maine cities and towns opt into legal pot; more expected.New Yorkers seek legal weed in Massachusetts after lawmakers fail to legalize. Plenty of blame to be passed around after New York failure to legalize. New York City marijuana dealers see bowl half full after Albany fails to legalize cannabis. What’s next for marijuana in New Jersey?

Illinois marijuana legalization impacts company policies. As Illinois determines whether to limit potency of legalized pot, drug gets increased scrutiny after link to psychosis. Cannabis will be legal January 1st; how will Illinois employers handle the change? Morton, Illinois makes a choice regarding marijuana sales.Illinois law legalizing marijuana could threaten Iowa fledgling medical cannabis industry.

Legalizing pot will create “carnage” on Pennsylvania roads, judge opines. Pennsylvania marijuana report expected by month’s end. Indiana and marijuana prohibition. What to know about Michigan new recreational marijuana rules.

Arizona marijuana business expanding ahead of planned drug legalization effort in 2020. Group pushes to legalize recreational marijuana in Arizona.

US lawmakers look to legalize pot in “historic” marijuana reform hearing. The debate over how, not whether, Congress should legalize marijuana is heating up. Marijuana Justice Coalition asserts statement of principles on federal marijuana reform. Congressional Democrats tout pot legalization in election campaign petition. Why members of the right should embrace marijuana legalization. Examining Joe Biden on marijuana legalization. Fox News still anti-pot.

Monetizing the munchies: How legal marijuana use is affecting the US snacking industry. The global legal pot market size is expected to reach $66 billion in 2025. Weed tourism is on the rise. Pot growers finally finding some banks open to holding their cash. New study shows legalizing pot might discourage teen use.

Embracing “Impossible” Data

Image result for snowing indoors

As I waited for my train to London in one of those cavernous railroad stations up North, flakes of snow started to fall around me. My first thought was “Huh – it’s snowing”, followed seconds later with a shocking realization: “I’m indoors…and it’s snowing!!!”.

I looked up into the gloomy reaches of the arched ceiling high above me and concluded there must a hole in the roof through which an outdoor snowstorm was casting some flakes. I walked outside to check. It was certainly a cold November day, but the sky was clear and there was not even a skiff on the ground. Yet when I walked back inside, it was still very lightly snowing by the tracks where I had been standing.

Later that evening, in a downstairs bar off Pall Mall, I related my strange tale to my companions, who began forming theories. Because this particular watering hole is popular with spooks — who enjoy eavesdropping and puzzle solving in equal measure — pretty soon the whole place was engaged in a lively debate regarding how my impossible data could indeed be possible. It was fun discussion and without rancor.

Contrast that with different impossible data: Your doctor brings back your “routine tests” and says that even though you feel fine, you are gravely ill. Something in you shouts NO and you understandably come up with every possible reason why the impossible data just can’t be correct.

Those two cases of “impossible data” are at the extremes where the data are either entirely fun and non-threatening to learn from vs. terrifying to the core. Most impossible data is between those poles, and I wonder as a teacher and as a citizen whether we can instill in people a stronger habit of seeing impossible data like indoor snow instead of proof of terminal illness.

How do we get a gun rights advocate to do something other than scream “fake news!” when a study shows that gun owners are more likely to be shot? How do we get a firm atheist to appreciate evidence that highly religious people are happier and healthier? What is the magic that makes impossible data an exciting chance to learn more about the world rather than something to shut out at all costs?

Medical Journal: 1/5/19

A friend writes to remind me that I haven’t updated here in a couple of weeks.

Don’t worry: In this case, no news is good news.

On some dimensions I’m better: in particular, my voice is near normal (just slightly hoarse) at times, though it comes and goes, and I’m limited in how much volume I can produce. Physical energy seems slightly improved: I’ve now walked the mile home from work (slightly uphill) three times, which I certainly couldn’t have done even three weeks ago.

It turns out that Dr. Weiss and Dr. Tharaon didn’t actually disagree about my going back on isosorbide and hydrazaline; Dr. Weiss got the impression that Dr. Tharaon was recommending that instead of Entresto rather than in addition to it. He has no objection to the combination.

I tried it once, about a week ago, with bad results: half an hour after taking I felt dazed and sleepy, and headed right to bed in the middle of the day. Today I’m experimenting with a single dose of the isosorbide; I’m tolerating it well, and (with a hefty dose of hot chocolate) it does seem to have made me somewhat more energetic. I’ll try one dose a day for a while to see how it goes.

The cough is still annoying, but a little big less frequent than before; still productive, though. If it doesn’t improve, we’ll do another chest X-ray to make sure the Zithromax killed the pneumonia.

Big problem now is sleep: occasionally I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep for a couple of hours. Even when that doesn’t happen, and even if I go to bed before midnight, I’m sleeping extremely late. Today, for example, I woke up at 10, still felt drowsy, turned over and went back to sleep, didn’t wake up until 1 p.m. Thursday I didn’t bother to set an alarm because my first meeting wasn’t until 1:30, and was started when a phone call woke me up at 12:45.

Scheduled for a (yeeechh!!) colonoscopy toward the end of the month, which is the last test I need to get cleared for a transplant. Just got the instructions in the mail, and it appears that the process is significantly less annoying than it was the last time I did it: first dose of that awful sludge you have to drink isn’t until 6pm the evening before the test. Good news: at my age, this is the last routine colonoscopy; the guideline is one every 10 years, but not after 75.

Another potential donor has emerged, which gets the candidate pool back to three. Still hoping to get the job done in February, but nothing is certain.Still cheerful, comfortable, and reasonably productive. More when I know more. If there’s any bad news, I’ll make sure it gets posted here, so take silence as encouraging.

Perhaps Less Than Meets the Eye

I hesitate in commenting upon the Jeffrey Epstein matter. After all, the motto of the RBC is that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Somehow, the feel of this story is more National Enquirer than, say, the sort of measured and sober analysis which this blog attempts to traffic in. However, the indictment and arrest of Epstein today, coupled with Wednesday’s decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unsealing vast amounts of material filed in a defamation suit in New York, take this matter outside of the seamy margins of “journalism” practiced by the likes of the Enquirer.

While I haven’t checked, I have to assume that these two coincident developments are “trending” on FaceBook and Twitter. There is, simply put, a tsunami of what might best be described as prurient speculation as to the identities of the famous and near-famous who might be implicated in Epstein’s alleged one-man sex-trafficking ring. However, let me point out the following:

I think that the caveat set forth by the Second Circuit in its opinion deserves more attention than it is likely to receive:

[T]he  media  does  the  public  a  profound disservice when it reports on parties’ allegations uncritically. We have previously  observed  that  courts  cannot  possibly  “discredit  every statement or document turned up in the course of litigation,” and we have criticized “the use by the media of the somewhat misleading term ‘court  records’  in  referring  to  such items.”  Even  ordinarily  critical readers  may  take  the  reference  to  “court  papers”  as  some  sort  of marker of reliability.  This would be a mistake.


We  therefore  urge  the  media  to  exercise  restraint  in  covering potentially defamatory allegations, and we caution the public to read such accounts with discernment. 

Slip op. at 23-24, footnote omitted.

The one thing that we know is that the public will not read “such accounts” with discernment. And, this lack of discernment is certainly stoked by the current resident of the White House who, for instance, claims that he was the victim of some vast electoral conspiracy. However, I have done my job by striking this cautionary note.

Update: I have uploaded a copy of the Epstein indictment here.

Medical Journal 12/19/18

Cough may be improving a little bit; using a phenolspray before bedtime seems to help.

Below are the results from the echocardiogram. EF is actually 35% rather than 40%,where anything over 55% is normal.

Several other findings sound sorta scary:

-severe mitral annular calcification

-small pericardial perfusion

-paradoxical septal motion

but I have no clear idea what they mean.

Study Result

Impression

CONCLUSION:

–There is no left atrial dilatation (LA volume index 28 ml/m²).

–The interventricular septum is mildly hypertrophied.

–The left ventricle has normal end-diastolic diameter.

–There is paradoxical septal motion. The basal and mid anterior septum, entire septum, and entire inferior wall are hypokinetic. Contractility of all remaining LV segments is normal.

–LV ejection fraction is moderately decreased (35 %).–There is no right atrial dilatation. The right ventricle is normal in size. The right ventricle has normal wall motion.

–There is aortic valve thickening. There is mild aortic stenosis. The aortic valve area, by the continuity equation, is 1.53 cm². The aortic valve area index is 0.7 cm²/m². There is mild aortic regurgitation. Aortic valve gradient is early peaking.

–There is severe mitral annular calcification. There is mitral valve thickening. There is moderate mitral regurgitation. There is MAC with a mitral valve gradient of 5mmHg at a heart rate of 77 bpm.

–The right atrial pressure is normal (0 -5 mm Hg). There is too little tricuspid regurgitation to estimate PA systolic pressure.

–There is a small pericardial effusion. There is a small pericardial effusion adjacent to the RA and RV without chamber collapse.

–No prior study available for comparison.

Narrative

NYU Langone Medical CenterAdult Echocardiography Laboratory560 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016Tel: 212-263-5664 Fax: 212-263-84612D Transthoracic Echo Report——————————————————————————–Pt. Name: MR. MARK A. KLEIMAN Study Date: 12/11/2018 Pt. ID: 13733272 Accession #: 16505925DOB: 5/18/1951 Ref. Physician: 1245564079 VASISHTA TATAPUDI Age/Gender: 67 M Sonographer: AM Height: 185 cm (73in) Fellow: Rebecca Pinnelas MD Weight: 111 kg (244 lb) BSA: 2.34 m²Location: Tisch NIC EPIC Code: ECH10-O—–

Indication: Preoperative cardiovascular exam

MEASUREMENTS: Value Normal Value Normal Aortic 3.5 cm <4.4 cm LVOT 2.0 cm Root Diameter LA 4.8 cm <3.8 (<4.0) LVOT Area 3.1 cm² Diameter LVOT Stroke 60 ml (25LA Vol 28 ml/m² <34 Volume ml/m²)Index LVOTVmax 0.9 m/s— (rest) LVOTdPmax (rest) IV Septum 1.3 cm <1.1 (<1.2) LVOT V max LVEDD 5.2 cm <5.3 (<6.0) (Vals)Inf-Lat 1.1 cm <1.1 (<1.2) LVOT dPmaxWall (Vals)LVESD 4.1 cm —-AV Vmax 1.9 m/s 1.0-1.7LVED Vol 52 ml/m² <75 AV PeakIndex GradientLV Mass 107 g/m² <95 (<115) AV MeanIndex Gradient——AV Area 2-4Impedance <3.5(Zva)LVEF 35 % 50-70% Aortic 453 msec——–Regurge P1/2——–RAP, mean 3 mmHg 0-5PASP <35PADP <15 MV E wave 1.0 m/s 0.6-1.3RV-RA VmaxPA-RV MV Mean 5 mmHgLA, mean <12 Gradient——-MV Area 4-6——-Mitral E 97 cm/sMitral A 144 cm/s TV E wave 0.3-0.7Mitral 0.7 VmaxE/A TV MeanDecel 188 msec GradientTi—-Mitral P 55 msec1/2E’ 7 cm/s >8 RVOT(medial) DiameterE’ >8 RVOT Area(lateral) RVOT StrokeE/E’ 13.8 <8 VolumePV S/D RVOT Vmax Normal values in parentheses are —–specific for men; normal aortic root values adjusted for age and BSA. LAVI data reflect 2015 ASE guidelines. PV Vmax 1.2 m/s 0.6-0.9PV PeakGradient—-BP 160/79mmHgHR 76 bpm

TECHNIQUE:Complete 2D transthoracic echocardiogram with color and spectral Doppler was performed. Study quality was good.

FINDINGS:

Left Heart:

–There is no left atrial dilatation (LA volume index 28 ml/m²).

–There is paradoxical septal motion. The basal and mid anterior septum, entire septum, and entire inferior wall are hypokinetic. Contractility of all remaining LV segments is normal. LV ejection fraction is moderately decreased (35 %).

Legend: 0=not seen; 1=normal; 2=hypokinetic; 3=akinetic; 4=dyskinetic;5=aneurysmal

Mitral Valve:

–There is mitral valve thickening. There is severe mitral annular calcification. There is moderate mitral regurgitation. There is MAC with a mitral valve gradient of 5mmHg at a heart rate of 77 bpm.

Aortic Valve:

–There is aortic valve thickening. There is mild aortic stenosis. The dimensionless index is 0.47. The aortic valve area, by the continuity equation, is 1.53 cm². The aortic valve area index is 0.7 cm²/m². There is mild aortic regurgitation. Aorticvalve gradient is early peaking.

Aorta:

–The aortic root is normal in size.Right Heart and Systemic Veins:

–There is no right atrial dilatation.

–The right ventricle is normal in size. The right ventricle has normal wall motion.

–The right atrial pressure is normal (0 -5 mm Hg). There is too little tricuspid regurgitation to estimate PA systolic pressure.

Tricuspid Valve:

–There is trace tricuspid regurgitation.Pulmonic Valve:

–There is trace pulmonic regurgitation.Pericardium and Effusions:

–There is a small pericardial effusion. There is a small pericardial effusion adjacent to the RA and RV without chamber collapse.–

CONCLUSION:

–There is no left atrial dilatation (LA volume index 28 ml/m²).

–The interventricular septum is mildly hypertrophied.

–The left ventricle has normal end-diastolic diameter.

–There is paradoxical septal motion. The basal and mid anterior septum, entire septum, and entire inferior wall are hypokinetic. Contractility of all remaining LV segments is normal.

–LV ejection fraction is moderately decreased (35 %).

–There is no right atrial dilatation. The right ventricle is normal in size. The right ventricle has normal wall motion.

–There is aortic valve thickening. There is mild aortic stenosis. The aortic valve area, by the continuity equation, is 1.53 cm². The aortic valve area index is 0.7 cm²/m². There is mild aortic regurgitation. Aortic valve gradient is early peaking.

–There is severe mitral annular calcification. There is mitral valve thickening. There is moderate mitral regurgitation. There is MAC with a mitral valve gradient of 5mmHg at a heart rate of 77 bpm.

–The right atrial pressure is normal (0 -5 mm Hg). There is too little tricuspid regurgitation to estimate PA systolic pressure.

–There is a small pericardial effusion. There is a small pericardial effusion adjacent to the RA and RV without chamber collapse.

–No prior study available for comparison.

Census Litigation Update

I’ve posted the government’s latest filing in the ongoing Census litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. (There is similar litigation ongoing in two other district courts.)

In essence, the government is claiming that the Supreme Court’s action upholding the current injunction is based solely on the claim that the rationale behind the initial actions of the Secretary of Commerce was pretextual. As such, the case is essentially moot because the government will no longer rely upon that rationale. Thus, no further discovery should be allowed at this point. Then, as explained by the government:

Any new decision by the Department of Commerce on remand providing a new rationale for reinstating a citizenship question on the census will constitute a new final agency action, and Plaintiffs will be fully entitled to challenge that decision at that time.

Government Motion at 1-2.

Thus:

Here, no amount of discovery will change the fact that the March 2018 decision that was the subject of Plaintiffs’ lawsuit has been vacated and the matter remanded to the agency. The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Commerce have been asked to reevaluate all available options following the Supreme Court’s decision and whether the Supreme Court’s decision would allow for a new decision to include the citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census. In the event the Commerce Department adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census consistent with the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Government will immediately notify this Court so that it can determine whether there is any need for further proceedings or relief. But proceeding to discovery now in connection with a new decision that has not yet been made would be premature. It would also be extremely inefficient.

I will update as necessary.

UPDATE: Here’s the Court’s letter order denying the government’s attempt to short-circuit the litigation. The Court made short work of the merits of the government’s position:

Plaintiffs’ remaining claims are based on the premise that the genesis of the citizenship question was steeped in discriminatory motive. The discovery contemplated by the Court related to the recently discovered evidence in this case goes directly to that issue. Regardless of the justification Defendants may now find for a “new” decision, discovery related to the origins of the question will remain relevant. Given that time is of the essence, therefore, the prudent course is to proceed with discovery. As both sides acknowledge, the schedule may be adjusted as circumstances warrant.

As to the procedural issue that the case is now moot, the Court said:

Additionally, Defendants suggest in their filing that Plaintiffs’ Rule 60(b) Motion is now moot. If Defendants wish to further litigate that issue, while conducting discovery, an appropriate motion can be filed and the Court will formally respond upon full briefing. In the meantime, in accordance with the Order being issued today, discovery shall commence.

Simply put, the Court saw through the government’s attempt to issue a new order, either by the Secretary of Commerce or via an Executive Order issued by Trump, and thus avoid investigation into the intent behind the inclusion of the citizenship question.

Illicit Tobacco and Nicotine Markets

Big Tobacco is consistently overstating black market in cigarettes–while still facilitating tobacco smuggling. Bloomberg to fund new $20 million global industry watchdog based in Bath.

Commissioner Andriukaitis on the adoption of an EU-wide track and trace system. Big Tobacco fumes over new EU salvo in cigarette smuggling war. Andriukaitis lashes out at tobacco industry, says it uses ‘tricks’ to bypass legislation. Angry tobacco industry asks Andriukaitis for ‘transparent dialogue.’ International Tax Stamp Association v. European Commission: the little court case that could? UK Association of Convenience Stores: Impact of Track and Trace on Retailers.

Why the EU’s track and trace system fails to live up to World Health Organization requirements. Track and trace leaves the fox guarding the henhouse; ‘may let tobacco industry in by back door.’ Track and Trace: Best Practices & Country Experiences.

India studies Kenya digital stamps to curb tobacco tax evasion. Can Macron get France to finally quit smoking? Can Europe rein in Big Tobacco? Will the Canada big premiers’ meeting stamp down on illegal smokes? Large fake Kent cigarette factory discovered in Iraq, seized by authorities. UK HMRC and police seize illegal cigarettes and alcohol in raids. Bulgaria destroys over 24 tons of illicit tobacco. Illegal cigarettes increasing presence in Brazil and Southern Cone. Australia illegal tobacco targeted under new laws.

Tobacco control is not the principal driver of illicit trade in tobacco. Other factors include the ease and cost of operating in a country, organized crime networks, government policies on illicit trade of tobacco products, and the general acceptance of illicit trade in a country.

Threat to duty-free tobacco as WHO‘s Protocol to Eliminate the Use of Illicit Tobacco Products (ITP) is ratified. Analysis of Article 6 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Weekend Film Recommendation: They Shall Not Grow Old

Americans understandably think of World War I as a far less severe conflict than World War II. But for most European nations, the slaughter was on a larger scale in The Great War, making the 2018 Armistice centennial a major cultural and historical event. The British Imperial War Museum’s contribution to the commemoration was to open their film archive to Peter Jackson, who is addition to being a famous filmmaker is also a Great War buff. The astounding result is this week’s film recommendation: They Shall Not Grow Old.

Jackson and his team began with unpromising visual material: scratchy, battered, over and underexposed, black and white, silent, film footage taken during the war with hand crank cameras. The audio material — interviews with many veterans long after the war ended — was in better physical shape but had no essential connection to the images. With remarkable technical skill and artistic vision, Jackson spun dross into gold.

Computer scanning was used to counterbalance for light exposure problems, add vivid color, and impute missing frames (the latter of which eliminates the herky-jerky motion produced by the slow pace of filming in this period). Professional lip readers were employed to determine what the soldiers in the film were saying and actors were hired to voice the lines. And an array of preserved WWI tanks, rifles, artillery, and other equipment were recorded and the resulting sound track synced up seamlessly to the original footage. The stories of soliders were then skillfully assembled to narrate the film entirely in the words of “ordinary people”.

The resulting film is a technical marvel and an emotional wallop at the same time. Watching so many young men marching cheerfully from the recruiting station to the front line, and seeing them later dying in the muck and staring shell shocked into the camera is a devastating experience for the audience. And the stories told by the veterans, which range from the lighthearted (e.g., fishing soldiers out of the latrine when the bench broke) to the gut wrenching (e.g., seeing horrific injuries…and smelling them too), are utterly compelling. The banal aspects of military life are interspersed between the terrifying moments, including the shattering climax when the troops go over the top into the teeth of machine gun fire.

Many film makers would have had the impulse to have some authority figure add narration regarding “What it all means morally” either to (a la Stanley Kramer) “make sure the audience drew the correct conclusions” or to signal their own virtue. Peter Jackson is wiser than that: he lets the soldiers speak for themselves and the audience to draw their own lessons. The overpowering result is a unique cinematic achievement. Indeed, it even made me forgive Jackson for The Hobbit.

Political Upheaval

The above chart is from Electoral Calculus, a reputable polling and forecasting firm in the UK. When I see my friends in Parliament these days, I largely confine myself to buying them drinks and telling jokes. Nothing much is happening in the policy areas I know something about, so I instead focus on providing some transitory relief of their suffering and uncertainty.